Friday, June 19, 2015

And Then There Were Ten

I added two new ewes to the flock this past weekend, bringing the total up to a nice even 10! Meet Lilith and Kilda:

Lilith is on the left, Kilda is on the right. They both come from Kathie Miller's Southern Oregon Soay Sheep Farms. You may recall that Kathie was one of the women responsible for bringing this wonderful breed to the United States. She sadly passed away in April, so her flock was dispersed to other soay breeders. I'm very happy to add to the genetic diversity of my herd, and hope I can be even half the shepherdess Kathie was!

Lilith is 3 years old, and Kilda is 4. Kilda is also an AI baby--her mama was artificially inseminated with semen imported from the UK. You can read more about the project and why it's important in conservation breeding here.

Lilith has been a firestarter from the moment I showed up at Narnia Farms to collect her (a transport brought a bunch of Kathie's sheep to Narnia for central holding/quarantine until all the WI farmers could pick them up)! To help them bond to each other and keep them as stress-free as possible, they were kept in a pen by themselves at Narnia. When Alan and I entered to grab them and stuff them in dog crates for the ride to my farm, Lilith immediately jumped over a 4+-foot wall and hightailed it out to pasture. Oh dear. We did finally get her inside and loaded, obviously, and the ride home was uneventful.

The two newbies then spent 48 hours in the catch pen in my barn, so all the ewes could see and smell each other with the safety of a mesh wall between them. Lilith seemed to calm down almost right away, though she still showed me that she has an abundance of, let's say, personality.
Hmm, I wonder if I can clear the top of this?
Tuesday I let the girls out of their catch pen. Daisy took to giving them hell almost immediately, chasing them around and headbutting them. If I had any doubt before about who was really boss, that has now been cleared up! Then a few hours later, I did a pretty stupid thing. I let everyone onto pasture at once. What I should have done was let the regular girls out, then set up a small temporary paddock just outside the door to let the newbies into. This would've maintained some safe distance and let the girls still get some air, but they still would've been easy to corral back inside a few hours later. Since Lilith and Kilda had been off pasture for about 3 weeks at this point, I had to let them have no more than a half-day on pasture to start and slowly work back up to a full day.

But like I said: should. For whatever reason, I just opened the door and let them have at it! This was dumb because 48 hours is not enough time for the newbies to bond with their new flock or with the barn. I could tell immediately I was going to have trouble getting them back into it later, and soays are not really very herdable.
Lilth and Kilda's favorite hangout their first few days
You can't see us!
After several panicked texts to my sheep mentor (thanks for being so patient with me, Kathy!), we decided to just let them be to get used to their new life. They would maybe get a bit of diarrhea from too much pasture, but better than stressing them out further by trying to chase them. They weren't eating much anyway--every time I checked on them, they were either resting under a pine tree or being chased by Daisy.

So, dusk came and it was time to shut everyone in for the night. As usual, the regular crew hightailed it straight into the barn as soon as they heard their grain pans rattling. I had hoped the new girls would just follow the herd straight in, but they didn't. They came close, but seemed reluctant to enter the barn. So I set out grain for everyone else anyway, then went into the pasture with another grain pan, hoping to chase/lure the ladies in. After a small little chase, they went for it and I ran into their pen behind them so I could close the door. Unfortunately, Dorrie and 3 of the lambs decided to run between my legs right before I slammed the door. Ugh.

Fortunately, Dorrie is pretty tame and very, very grain-motivated, so she just came right around into the alpaca pen hoping for a handout. An extremely loud cacophony of baahs from the mothers on the other side of the pen and then the lambs ensued. So I texted Jon to come out and help me real quick. Dorrie did get her handout, as a ploy so I could then grab her horns. I figured if I led her over into the sheep pen, the lambs would follow. So Jon manned the gates for me while I did this. Phew. Finally, everyone was where they belonged and safe and sound for the night.

The next night, things went a bit better. Lilith is pretty curious for being so new yet, and she actually followed me into the barn since I was shaking a grain pan, and Kilda goes everywhere Lilith goes. She is still very flighty and nervous, though. She sort of uses Lilith as a security blanket. She never strays far from her side, and prefers to lay down behind her if she can. I commonly see/hear her bahhing for Lilith, like a mama calls to her lambs. And so far, Lilith actually answers!
Integration seems to also be progressing smoothly. After about 36 hours of getting bullied by Daisy, the tables now seem to have turned, and I think Lilith is the new boss. She and Kilda still don't graze super close to everyone else yet, but they're starting to make good progress. They actually seem most at ease around the alpacas. Those loveable goofs could win anyone over!
Kilda and Mal touch noses.

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