Studley. It all comes back to him—actually, to be fair, it’s probably rams in general…. Even though Studley DoLittle was in with the “girls”, he was seemingly bored and with extra testosterone floating around with nowhere to go. As a result, fences and structures were being bulldozed down by him as fast as we built them!
To discipline a ram, you have to flip them on their backs, put a knee on their chests and play alpha ram, shouting at them the entire time with “buzz” words. (this feels a little bit like being Tarzan/a—-I draw the line at beating on my chest !!) If that doesn’t work, you’re supposed to up the ante by holding their mouth and nostrils closed for a few seconds while they’re on their backs. Sheep books admonish: “Don’t hold their noses until they pass out…they lose enough brain cells on their own!” Gotta love it.
Anyway, none of this was sinking in to Studley….matters were escalating……and even though we’re in the RAINY season right now (where we basically lose two of our paddocks to the local mallard population), we decided that we needed to increase our flock. Hence the arrival of two ram lamb wethers (castrated rams), that are two months younger than Studley—-purchased SOLELY for his amusement (oh…all right, for their fleeces too!). Cute little guys. 10 sheep total. phew.
As advised, upon their arrival we put the two little guys in the old dog kennel: used as a quarantine confinement area—-ideally for two weeks. And yes, this was the same kennel that Studley had already demolished one panel of earlier in his demonstration of his astute mental capacity (during his pursuit of orchard grass). It was patched back together. Let’s hear it for baling wire—almost as good as duct tape! (watched the “Red/Green Show” lately?)
So..we let the flock back into the barnyard and they immediately went over to check out the new guys; sheep are cute that way—very curious. Studley, however, was seemingly indifferent to the little guys…puzzling…..until our backs were turned and then that poor kennel panel again became a piece of corrugated fencing.
Emergency change of plan. With dark rolling in fast, we were faced with the dilemma of how to keep Studley away from the new rams for the night.
The only possible solution was to put him off by himself in the 2nd paddock, where there is a shelter; this is harsh, because being kept separate like this is the SUPREME punishment for a flock animal…. It wasn’t too easy on us either, as there is no high perimeter predator-proof fencing in place yet; who knows what lions and tigers and bears are out there, lurking amongst the christmas trees….looking at the red, neon sign flashing over Studley saying “eat here now”. After a few hours of him calling out that he’d “be good”, we relented and brought him back into the barn. He was true to his word the rest of the night.
Bear in mind, this is all going on in the muck and mud of RAIN. The first real downpour of this season. Our timing was exquisite.
The next day, Bob had the brilliant idea of putting up electric fence tape on the outside of the dog kennel….worked like charm…problem solved—at least for the time being. (The sheep KNOW what that white “tape” means!) Now that the immediate problem of Studley and the ram lambs had been addressed, we could pay more attention to the newcomers. Because they were in a totally new setting, the two lambs were scared and not eating. Evidently, they were only used to grazing–not eating from a bin or being kept in a confined pen. After reviewing all of our options, we decided to put the little wethers in the orchard—hoping that, unlike the older sheep, they would leave the trees and blueberries alone and that George the gander wouldn’t attack them as interlopers. The lambs loved it; the stray little blackberries popping up here and there were history in a heartbeat. Success.
After a few hours, we decided that we should bring them back into the kennel so that they didn’t overload their digestive tract. Ooops. How? (notice a trend here?) We started edging them slowly towards the barnyard gate, but they were totally skittish….and afraid of us. We were looming on the edge of a disaster. God bless Gus, one of our bottle fed 6 month old kittens, and a sheep’s natural curiosity about WHAT a cat is.
As an aside, Gus is our “flockcat”. When we go out in the morning to check out the integrity of the fencing (i.e. have the elk punched holes in it)—Gus is right there. Then when we bring the sheep out to the pasture, he runs along the outside of the fence like a little sheepherder. Our flock love their cat.
Back to the orchard and the two wethers. As we were trying to herd them back into the barnyard and on the brink of disaster, Gus strolls into the orchard and over to the wethers—just out of “sniffing reach”. They’re intrigued…. Seizing the moment, I call to Gus and start slowly walking to the barnyard….sneaking a peek over my shoulder, I see Gus following me, with the two wethers stringing along behind him. Holding my breath, I continue into the barnyard, calling to Gus the whole way, with Bob bringing up the rear. Hallelujah!!!! From the barnyard into their kennel was a piece of cake…Done!!!
Today, we plan on taking out the laser light—just to insure our success! I’m thinking that we have a new breed of cat that could prove to be highly marketable: A herding animal that uses the “dangling carrot” approach, rather than the fear of being nipped!!!