Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Santa Cruz Island Sheep & Finnsheep -- Can they take the cold weather?

I know I must be outta' my mind to even bother posting this, but I felt it was necessary to put the sheep and our La Mancha goats in the barn for our storms we are having in Southern California. They are colder storms than we're used to having, but I panic a little when every single weather person on radio, TV, and online newspapers are blasting the airways again with the "storm panic" news grabbing stories of outlandish predictions of impending floods, freezing temperatures, tornadoes? mudslides, and the worst of all--maybe an inch or so of snow. Forecasters make us so afraid that if a snowflake falls on us, that's the same is as acid on our heads. I'm not making this up. No changes in weather for long periods make for anxious forecasters "chompin' at the bit" to scoop a weather story and secure their job and pay. It did snow in the surrounding areas and foothills and we had just colder temperatures. I'm so glad we didn't shear the sheep up early because the wool is really good blanket for them.

I fall for big storm news every time. We just have antenna for our television. We don't have cable or satellite and really we get all we need. The other channels are for us empty. My only temptation to have more TV channels is The Rural Television Channel, and our BYU channel which is our Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Channel. I yearn to have that most of all.

My dear husband, the fireman, homeland security agent, CERT trainer, NIMS trainer, and add anything you want to the title, and he's that...gets these special alerts and updates on the phone/Internet. It's usually fun stuff he can't tell me. But the weather he does pass on to me. Sheesh, this is true, Florida news picked-up on the national news that there were snow plows on Highway 126  near Ventura, California. There hasn't been any snow on the 126 in 62 years and then it might have hit the ground and melted. That all was before I was even born. My Tressa said maybe there was some "grauple" small pellet-type hail, but it melted very quickly,but that was also just one quick afternoon.

My Steve is so good with my obsession with loving my lambs and goats. He does have a wonderful, sweet, and kind manner with all animals and especially ones the least entitled to love and affection. My mother-in-law taught all her children about being sweet to God's creatures. Any trip in the car or walk, she might see a cat, dog, or even wild squirrel, and she would say one of her most beloved saying, "Little doggie (or kitty) where do you belong?"
My Best Stealth Herder & Barn Maintenance Worker
I've got these rolly-polly sheep. The Santa Cruz ewe has only one lamb,  always a single lamb. It's interesting that they never have a "bummer" lamb unless... I suppose the ewe dies giving birth. Never happened in all the years that we have raised the sheep. One of the unusual traits of the breed is also stealing other ewe's lambs. One of our Santa Cruz Sheep had 13 babies that she was feeding. This Santa Cruz ewe was old and she let herself get too depleted and we lost her. I wish I had watched more closely and taken the baby lambs away. They could have easily been bottle-fed with goat milk. The Santa Cruz Sheep are an amazing breed, that truly are so different from what we are used to raising. But, our older Finns. Holy Sheep! I think Serafina will have at least four lambs. It takes a change in the barometric pressure to start labor or even just a startle, and they begin the process. The sheep are ready, that is, if they actually "took" on October 3rd.

We have a strange mangy coyote running around and any little lambie would probably be eaten in "just-a-shake" if he were in hearing range of a bleating, newborn lamb. I see this gray coyote almost every morning. I would have thought it was a Chupracabra if I hadn't already known about the disease-carrying varmints. The coyotes are so weird looking. The coyote has crinkled-up ears, dark gray skin, absolutely no hair on his tail and most of his body, a drawn-up mouth that shows all his teeth. He's so skinny-looking, and so hairless. The thinness and loss of hair makes the coyote looks hunched-over, like coyote's spine is bending. The coyote is I believe so sick and probably will die soon and he can't run, more like a slow lope.  Our dog takes every opportunity to bite this particular coyote's butt constantly. And that's a whole 'nother worry.

The misty fog, overcast, and the start of a heavy drizzle, and I'm out there preparing the stalls. Our goats will stay outta' the mud because they hate it and will actually lose weight in a storm to keep their feet dry. All the animals have little huts for shelter, but do the sheep use them? Nope. Sheep should be called "pigs" because food is "everything" and literally the sheep will walk up to their knees in mud and actually drag their tummies and put those beautiful wooly coats right down in the sticky mud. They love to get to any feed or grass at the edge of the pen and mud and muck doesn't deter them, at all. Our clay is slippery and also deep. Do they have overlapping hooves and do they need clipping? I bet so and I need to prevent "hoof-rot" I'm all for prevention and not treating infected feet. Sheep are so much harder to keep. Not bad, but harder than goats and that includes milking the goats. I would rather trim a wild goat hooves and milk an ornery doe, than to trim sheep feet.

Okay, this is another day: I did fix all the sheep hooves and clipped them carefully. Thankfully, I thought it all through and caught them the correct way and only one, China, the big white ewe, placed her feet and  managed to push them up. China kicked my shins and legs fast and hard. I couldn't turn her quick enough, but I did remember to drop the open clippers so I wouldn't stab either of us. The white ewe is always last and she is the always the one to get her legs where she can "tap-dance on my shins" New purchase necessary, shin-guards. Shin-guards from baseball will work, right?
 We need to herd the sheep into the barn and guess what? They are harder than cats!

I have two of the best stealth shepherds. I  put-up the dog because the controlled placement of the sheep is in order, but not running like would happen if the dog was loose. Darby, our Queensland Heeler, started crying and I felt so bad that she was locked-up, she wanted to play with the sheep so bad. The sheep are too pregnant for running. Steve has always hated herding anything, especially from behind the herd, because they go off in all directions looking for food. I was only talking about putting in our little doggy in jail and Darby, our dog became suddenly lost. We looked everywhere and just by chance, Steve walked down the stall hall and there she was...Darby had put herself in jail, crying. I still feel guilty.

Sheep have great memories of being little lambs. I pulled out the the sheep's old baby bottles and put some yogurt and corn starch in the bottles to look like milk. I got a bucket with rabbit pellets. That's a favorite treat and sheep will do anything to have their head in it. But...only their head, no sharing. Sooo, it's walk fast and shake the bucket and bottle. "Baby, baby, baby" is my call to all my sheep and goats. They don't even recognize that they've grown-up. I have their attention because of the food factor.

 Yes these are goats, but need a break from the rain.
Steve had already cleaned the pens, put out shavings, and filled all the buckets with clean water and alfalfa in each stall. It's really nice and I appreciate all his hard work. I could live in the stalls if I knew for sure that there wasn't rats, mice, and possibly spiders. Oh, and I'm allergic to shavings. But, it does look cozy. The secret stealth herders are strategically placed in the field and wearing red. They quietly were placed at points where I didn't want the sheep to do their A.D.D. wander. The detour usually includes chomping random, green anything. My husband is good at this job, but little distracted.  My grandson, Dallin is there! As the sheep passed each stall, he was there locking them in, and the next, and the next. It was like we had practiced this for days. It's a matter of learning to listen to directions and following them perfectly. Dallin will be an amazing grown man.
I Love This Wonderful Ranch. Beautiful view of our horses and our Jurassic Park & Santa Paula Peak
All the sheep herding went perfect. Because of my stealth herders. The experience was soft, slow, and deliberate  All very important requirements for our rolly-pollies and ready to lamb anytime. I don't want any early birds (lambs) I have the best helpers. Dallin and my husband, both helped me without any complaining. I know they don't like the sheep. All of us felt great walking up the stairs to the back kitchen door. The rain began to fall on the steps as we walked-up. The livestock were snug in their pens in the barn. It's still raining and still cold and I'm so blessed to have such a great family. Dallin is a special young man and lives next door on our ranch. All my grandchildren have such great passion for service and I'm so blessed to have them all.

"Maaaaah!" The sheep are happy. Yes, we have black sheep, but they are sheep, and there are no "black sheep" in my family. They are angels.
One of My Favorite Angel Pictures

1 comment:

Breeda said...

:) I love it and it sounds just like home. Love you, Mom!