Ewe Moves

There is a lot of this going on between the ewes, especially when they rise in the am. While the majority of the ewes busy themselves with eating there will be tidy groups and pairs here and there, sparring with each other.  They seem to get it all out of their system in the morning or else they wear it off during the day because by evening peace reigns again. 

For the last week small bunches of ewes have been travelling around back to where the rams are and hanging out there. They are going quite a distance to get there, as it’s not a small field. Each evening I need a stock dog to move them off the fence and back to the flock. Tonight as part of our walk I decided the five Kelpies and I could make our way around back. By now I figured just us showing up should send the ewes on their way. 

It did, the ewes spied us coming over a hill and moved off well ahead of us. Because they have to travel a ways we followed to make sure they completed the journey. The ewes are staying well out in front so there was no work to be had, we were just on a walk to double check. 

The dogs crested a rise along the trail ahead of me when BlackJack spotted movement in the distance. He was off, full speed ahead, down into the draw and out of sight. By the time I figured out where he disappeared to he was committed. He did one hell of an outrun to get there and got around the small group. But he’s way far away from me and we have no communication between us at long distances yet. BlackJack’s flaw is that he doesn’t feel his stock and comes in fast and eager, especially when off on his own like he is now. He isn't doing a lot of good work and the rushing in causes the sheep to split up. He’s fine with that though as he loves to work a single, which is what he tried tonight. Between the ewes panicking about getting away from him and getting back to the flock, and me closing the distance between us and recalling him, he lost the sheep and came in; happy as a clam. I let him have his day. Gosh the distance he traveled for that outrun ... , and we haven’t done any distance work yet. 

Afterward I took BJ and Cajun with me to gather and move the flock for real, bringing the ewes home to the barn paddock. All I caught was one very fuzzy phone photo taken while still out on the pasture. I was too busy enjoying Cajun’s enjoyment of being out for a job. It’s been awhile for him. BJ loves to work with another dog so she was right in step with him and loving it too. 

We parked the ewes behind the barn for the night. All in all a refreshing evening of dogs and sheep and simple work, just me and my Kelpies. Tomorrow is a full day of sorting the ewe flock for breeding time. 

Count on Sheep To Lighten The Mood

Been watching sheep again and because the weather is warm enough for using a camera....I manage a few photos. 

It's morning and just about every sheep in the flock has risen and come to investigate the hay feed newly rolled out for them. These three laggers though are having words with each other. They jostle a bit, swinging their heads and knocking each other around. Mostly they have some sort of eye to eye competition - until one ewe tries a different tactic.

The last photo comes as a surprise and I think you'll get a laugh out of it like I did. It's much better with the sequence of photos going into it which is how I saw it the first time as the photos imported onto the computer. It was a surprise photo and I couldn't help but burst out laughing. Gotta love these woolies. Enjoy. 

It's Our Turn For Now

With only a light snow covering it is still possible to ride my pedal bike along the only road that leads out of our yard. I did so yesterday after morning chores, taking the kelpies along of course and riding for a mile and half before parking the bike in the ditch and moving into the pasture on foot for further walking. 

Lately I find myself stopping during a walk to just stand in awe and gratitude of the prairie all around me. To travel a mile and still be home is in itself incredible. There are no sheep out this way so we will not encounter any while we walk about. If we did it would come as a huge surprise. The ground is uneven with frozen mole hills and icy packs of snow caught in the taller grasses. 

The pasture we arrived at is not fenced for grazing and this year it was left to sit idle given that the hay it produced was looking weak this summer. This piece of land has been cut to often for hay and needs to be grazed and fertilized by livestock for a turn. Meanwhile the grazing land we do use needs a reprieve from grazing. 

I realize that Allen and myself will never keep up to it all and sometimes I get caught in thinking that someone else would do better in being stewards of this land. Well maybe that’s so, but it is our turn here for now and we’ve worked diligently to get to where we are so we’ll go on trying. And I’ll continue to pause and feel gratitude for what it is and how it has shaped us thus far. 

How Far Would They Graze

More photos of the flock moving out, in this case heading out in the morning to begin grazing.  

The gate at the entrance to this narrow pass remains open so the ewes can come and go however they do not volunteer to enter this pass on their own. I have been moving them up every few days to remind them the water bowl is available here and by now I am sure they know that it is. Now that we are feeding hay they are settling and bedding down just over the rise and the trip to the water bowl is not far at all but with snow on the ground again I doubt they will brave the pass and come for water. 

Even though we are regularly feeding hay now the ewes are still traveling during the day. Today they traversed the whole east quarter section and then moved southward to the weedy patch before returning to the hay that is rolled out on the ground for them.

It causes me to wonder how much or how little domestication has toyed with their instinct to migrate. Have they merely developed the habit of traveling this ground since the loss of our cross fencing? Or, if we dropped our perimeter fences, would this flock show any inclination to head south as the grasses here waned? 

I really don’t want to find out how far south they might go but it is a marvel how much they travel the land that is available to them. The weather makes a difference too. On cold days they stick around the hay feed but on warmer days they put on the miles, and we haven’t received enough snow to hamper their travels yet.

Time to Feed

We'll begin feeding hay to the ewes now. With the lack of snow cover the girls have been wandering far and wide recently but I think feed wise it’s just the pickings left now; unless they graze the native prairie. But they do not go there to eat and I feel compelled to pay attention to their choice even though I wish it different. 

Heading in for the night

I’m always uncertain about the best way to graze this land through winter or if it is okay to graze it at all? Yet in the same breath I feel no inclination to restrict the ewes as seeing them continue to move and seek food feels to instinctual. Besides following this feeling it’s going to be a while before we can catch up on fencing and restrict their grazing to a plan as we did in the past so I have to accept that this is what we can manage for now. 

This next picture is a morning photo taken when approaching the flock. The ewes are so settled at this time of the year, any other time they would be up and moving off at my approach.  

The day before this I had spread hay feed nearby to gauge how interested the ewes were in feed. They grazed for the day and came to nibble the hay in the evening. Then the ewes chose to bed here on the naked hill slope rather than their usual sheltered bedding ground. A sign that the night was calm. And see how they sleep apart from each other; this particular night was also not that cold, at least not for wool covered sheep.

p.s. Thank you to the reader who asked for another way to follow this blog; I’ve added a subscription option at the sidebar. 

Prairie Pace

The kelpies and I headed out for a walk this afternoon, a little earlier than usual.  I stepped out for a few days this week to help a family member who is going through a rough deal so the dogs were eager to be off on a run and I was eager for the solace I almost always find when I walk across a piece of prairie land. 

A couple weeks ago I was wondering about the amount of snow and if it would soon be hindering the ewes ability to get enough feed during cold weather.  

This week warmer weather set the snow back and made it possible to physically walk across the pastures with relative ease again.  All to soon the snowfall will once again limit us to walking along the road which is a welcome and private walk but with a different feel than being amidst the expansive prairie.

Exploring the prairie in the company of canines worked its magic as it often does. I packed my camera and caught a few more photos to add to an impromptu collection I’ve nicknamed Prairie Signatures. Yet to see where it leads. 

While I was out Allen kindly did the evening check of the flock and guardians, which lead us into an unplanned, quite evening with little to do, which was about perfect for bringing this day to a close and life back into its routine prairie pace. 

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