Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Playing with Sheep

   Okay, we really were not playing, but it felt like it.   Yesterday I took Sheep and Goats 101 through the Cornell Cooperative Extension  service.   It was great!
   The day started out a bit stressfully.  A major road on the way there was closed due to an accident, so I had to get new instructions from my husband, who was home at the computer (thank you Mapquest), and it added about 20-25 minutes to the drive.  I had only left an extra 15 for getting lost, so I was driving like a demon on small country roads - yes, I was that person you hate!  Karma does play a part, because I was nearly there and got stuck behind a Mennonite horse and buggy.  They were very kind and pulled into the grass off the shoulder to let me pass, but there was a lot of traffic in the other direction and I did not want to clip them.
    I got to the farm where the class was held, and met some great folks.  There was a lecture section with lots of emphasis on pasture, hay, forage, etc.  Very helpful.  I learned a lot about goats and goat meat, enough to peak my interest in raising some Boer goats at some point. Then after a lunch and some chatting, we went to the barns.  The shepherd who was letting us use her facility runs about 1000 head. She also has a flock of 600 that she does not own, but shepherds for a monastary nearby.  She had culled about 25 head from the flock and started off with a sheepdog demonstration.  Her dogs are AMAZING animals.
    We spent the next couple of hours trimming hooves, worming, giving shots, shoving sheep into a chute, learning to hold them seated in front of us, using a sheep seat, and then discussing barn configurations for lambing season.  The most fun for me was standing in the tightly packed enclosure with about 18 sheep milling about me, petting them, coaxing them, then shoving them into the chute.
    The sheep were funny.  Many reminded me of people I know - they would run in the opposite direction of what was good for them.  They made lots of noise, which amounted to nothing in the end.  They fought and made an uncomfortable time last longer than it would have it they had cooperated!  The first sheep whose hooves I trimmed was very unhappy.  She was in a device sort of like a chute, but then we squeezed it around her and flipped her upside down to trim, worm, and give her a shot.  She was  fighting the whole time - kicking her back legs as I was working on them, and I got a nice slice on my finger from the trimming shears.  When we let her out, she was annoyed!   However, I gave her a small handful of food, and for the rest of my time there she would keep nosing me, sniffing and licking my hand, not unlike my dog!
     We were working on Katahdins, Dorper crosses and Black Face crosses.  I loved the fleece on the little girls, and I think I do not ever need to have hair sheep. I loved their different temperaments, and the way they ran as quick as you please when the dog came around.
    The drive home was fast and straightforward. After leaving my newly christened work boots on the stoop, I went in side and realized I was filthy and smelly, and very happy!  Over all, it was an amazing day. 

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