Welcome to the Rough Part of Farming

This morning when I went to feed the sheep, three of the Jacobs were not there to greet me, and the fourth one was upset. I found them- all dead in different spots of the pasture. Coyotes again, I’m sure. One was eaten, the other two looked unharmed- I imagine they were run until they were overcome by stress. Sheep will do that- if a dog or coyote gets them down, they go into shock and die right there, even if they are not injured. Those two were still warm, so I cut them open to check for live lambs- just in case, but there were none. Then I had to get going and get to work, I had already missed a 7am meeting. If I have the wherewithal, I may try to butcher them out when I get home, to at least make dog food out of them.

The first loss was hard, this one is much harder. Now I see we have a serious problem! And I feel even worse since these sheep were a gift from Lynn! Amazingly, the lamb is still OK. So, I suspect that the sheep that flock well are safer– these three ewe lambs probably split off too easily, being new to the herd. But, no time to despair, I need to take action to make the remaining sheep safer. The remaining Jacob ewe is going to be vulnerable this week, she is distressed and not flocking well. So tonight I’ll move her up, and possibly pen her together with #33. That way they can bond, so that the Jacob will stay with the group better once she’s back out there. Since I don’t know when she’s due, she may have to live by the house until she lambs, whenever that may be.

This weekend, we’ll try to fill in the gaps under the gates where coyotes can most easily get in. I believe coyotes can probably get into anything if they want to, they are extremely crafty. My family once knew a woman with a dog/coyote cross pet that would bring home roasts she had robbed from people’s freezers! The reason she ran loose was that her owners gave up trying to contain her: she escaped every effort to lock her or tie her up. And, I read in a book about a researcher whose captive coyotes had been letting themselves out of their chain link kennels during the night, walking along the ridge poles to freedom and fun, and then putting themselves away in the morning. It took him a long time to figure out what was going on, their footprints in the snow was his first clue. So, I won’t fool myself into thinking we can keep them out for sure. But we can at least make it less convenient for them to get in.

Ugh, I am so bummed. But, it’s part of the deal, buying meat from the store is easy, you don’t have to think about all this going on behind the scenes. Farming is hard, you’re right there to witness the rough edges of Mother Nature, in all of its glory of birth and its sadness of death.

3 thoughts on “Welcome to the Rough Part of Farming

  1. hayray says:

    I don’t raise sheep but I do rasie cattle and I know about the hardships of raising livestock. Always having that fear of showing up at the pasture and finding a dead calf and thinking about the loss of money after a whole years endeveuours. Your situation with coyotes is a particualy hard one to control. They are very elusive and hard to shoot and trap, good luck.

    • workingcollies says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Ray- definitely, it IS hard. And not only the $ aspect, but most of us are in this because we love animals, and with livestock I feel responsible to offer them adequate protection since they are rather defenseless compared to their wild counterparts. So, I feel badly that I’ve let this happen, even though of course I know it’s not entirely controllable. We’re taking a lot of steps to improve their safety, like getting the guardian dog, and we’ll try to tweak our fencing to make it less convenient for the coyotes to slip in. And we may end up harvesting some coyotes too, it does seem like we have an awful lot of them, which is probably creating pressure for food, and great enough numbers to overcome large livestock.

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