I should know by now that when I walk past the animals and think “they’re acting a little odd” it really means that someone has done something they shouldn’t have and the other animals are shouting at them to stop rocking the boat.
Yesterday as I was walking to the chicken field I saw Millie the sheep ‘baa-ing’ and looking intently into the goat pen. Now, I’ve noticed that in their winter boredom the sheep come out and watch the goats and all of their antics outside the barn. I think it’s like their soap operas. But yesterday Millie wasn’t silently watching anymore; it was like she was yelling at the television screen in a horror movie. “Don’t go in there! Don’t open that door! No! I told you not to open the door!”.
So I turned around and went down to the barn to find Annabel the sheep in with the goats. She was being butted between the three of them like a soccer ball. Now to put it in context, Annabel is probably 150 pounds of sheep covered in 10 bulky pounds of wool. The goats were not being overly vicious (they hit each other all the time!) but they can pack a good punch with their horns. Thankfully, Annabel’s wool made her more like a marshmallow. I went in to get her out but sheep are so skittish it was hard to flush her from behind without letting the whole barnyard out. Fortunately, we spent time training her to halter this summer. She has never been so good letting me put on the halter as she was today—she wanted someone else to handle this situation. I used the halter to steady her with one hand and push her from behind with the other hand out into the aisle of the barn. From there it was easy to get her back into her stall.
With a small flock of sheep or herd of goats it’s really helpful to be able to halter them or at least get a leash on them. It makes things like medicating, hoof trimming and rescuing (!) all the easier.
I know how this whole debacle occurred. I noticed yesterday morning that the animals kick their straw out of the barn and then when they urinate it is freezing and every day the ground height is therefore getting higher outside the barn. This doesn’t even account for all the frost heaving that is going on. The electric fence outside the barn doors now only comes just above my knee height (it is usually 40” high). This is really low. But there isn’t really much I can do to fix this until we get above freezing and I can do some serious digging. But we do have lightweight metal gates on the sheep stall that we will close at night so that no one can get into trouble when I can’t see. Because the first rule of livestock is if there is any possible way they can get into trouble or injured they will. So being paranoid and extra cautious is a good thing in the barn.
I had planned on posting today about how we set up our barn and animals to deal with deep winter but alas the animals gave me something more interesting to write about. I guess a winter farm care post will have to await another day.