Two For the Road

I might of thought twice had I known what it would entail. My friend Harold who farms 800 organic acres asked me to graze a farm of his ten miles down the road. He wanted to plow and reseed it, as the seeding he had previously made did not take well. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity like this to add to our forage supply, as we would like to minimize our hay consumption during the winter and stockpiling forage on our home farm by remote grazing others, is a way to accomplish this.

Nothing about this particular event went very well. The move over of 800 head of sheep from one farm to another required many livestock trailer loads. We were not able to succeed in moving them in one day as we started late. This meant that young lambs were separated from their mom’s overnight. While this was not life threatening, as none of the lambs were less than 45 days old, it did add stress to the flock and worry to our lot.

Having moved them without other incident we found they consistently challenged our electro-net and busted through to graze the more attractive alfalfa acres adjacent to the field Harold had wished us to graze in. So the entire time we were grazing they needed to be moved more frequently than usual and baby-sat. We decided to move them back home a little prematurely as our labor resources would be diminished during the upcoming weekend.

I breathed a sigh of relief knowing our sheep were coming home.  I had some good help with moving them. Derrick, who has been helping with animal care for about five years, Anthony, Raya and her boyfriend Joe. I was tied up processing orders in the office late that afternoon and they almost completed the task when the sheep got ornery and darkness set in. Some got out and could not be rounded up out of the lush alfalfa field next door.

The next morning, a Friday, we had to move quick as I was losing my help for the weekend. Tony our llama was found missing when we arrived to the farm.  I went after him. Raya and Joe caught and loaded up what sheep were left, except two Ewes missing their lambs from the night before, hopped over the fence and went trucking off to the west and out of sight.

I found Tony about a half mile away in the middle of a muddy area in an large unplanted field adjacent to where we were grazing. After about an hour of walking and coaxing, I was lucky enough to catch his halter and walk him to our livestock trailer. We went after the two Ewes that trucked off but could not find hide nor hair of them. So we moved what we had back to our home farm and worked on their set up.

I was now in the mode of doing all the animal care for the weekend late Friday afternoon and was finishing up some order processing when I received a call from Harold that our two Ewes had reappeared back at where they had escaped.

Not surprised, I grabbed the livestock trailer and some electro-net to make a funnel to catch them and went after them. By the time I arrived they had made their way about a mile down the road and were grazing a grassy filter strip along a drainage ditch. So I constructed an electro-net funnel and attempted to herd them towards the trailer. They had other ideas. They went west and I was setup to the east. So I followed them on foot over hill and dale for the next three hours until dark, unsuccessful in luring them in the direction I needed to. Exhausted I disembarked back home, conjuring up strategies for catching these two itinerant ones.

The next morning I was tending to the chickens and goats when I received another call from Harold. The Ewes had moved up the road a piece, and were standing in it, at a dangerous bend. Again I scurried on over but in the meantime they had disappeared. I spent the next hour driving around looking for them but to no avail. Now worried that I had lost valuable chore doing time, with many more animals to care for, I went back to chore doing. About three in the afternoon on Saturday, the Iroqouis County Sheriffs dept. called up. Two sheep were seen on the loose at the Clifton road bend, might these be ours, and if so would we come catch them? I told the lady on the other end of the wire that is what I had been doing for the last day and a half but I would keep it up. Within minutes the gentleman officer in the Squad car sent out for reconnasance called and said, “Those sheep are dangerous and I had better get them in” I asked him if he had seen them and he said that he had not been able to locate them but he kept getting calls. I asked him if he wanted to shoot them and he said he could not for liability reasons. I found this odd as I would expect that is why he would desire to shoot them. He informed me he was on OT and his boss would not be happy with him for running up his time over some sheep! I told him I was on my way.

Thankfully, my wife Gwen had made it back and offered to help. She went out with her car looking, and I loaded up our four-wheeled drive utility vehicle. By the time I made it to the dangerous curve in the road a man was out working on his house for rent. (3 bedroom farm house for $650). I asked him if he had seen several itinerant sheep and he pointed north west to a drainage ditch said he saw them there about a half hour ago.

Well that was good fortune, maybe our luck was changing with these two. I called Gwen and she met me at the curve. We proceeded to the spot last seen and unloaded the 4×4. Off we went and search and found the two lonesome doves sitting in a barren field chewing their cud. Springing up on our arrival they went full bore due west again. (Ironically the same direction as  their lambs).

Now in full throttle we road these mamas hard over a ditch to a unplanted corn stubble field we could pursue them in. I was able to run one to the point of laying down and quitting, hog tied her and proceeded to go after the other. She being the smarter of the two went into a planted field of corn that I could not drive in. Back on foot and a mile now to the east she entered a tall grassy filter strip. I went back to the 4×4 and drove up the road to connect with the intersection of the filter strip. There lay a big beautiful farm house and lot with cattle grazing. I rang the bell to seek permission to trespass. A nice young girl came to the door and said fine to my request to drive on their grassy filter strip. The mom came running out and offered her assistance. I introduced myself to Glenda and said I think I could manage. Uh hum. On down the strip I caught up with the Ewe. She gave me the so you think you are going to catch me look and made a bolt for it. I raced after her on top of my 20 horse 4×4. Surely in this tall grass I could catch her. Just about pay dirt time she jumped over the bank of the drainage ditch. I slid down after her thinking now I got her! Normally sheep are afraid of water and will not cross a creek by wading. Well there are exceptions and she was one of them. With several leaps she was over and up the bank into another planted field. Oh God I thought will this ever end. Back up the the farmhouse Glenda came running out. Smiling she said the next water way over a half mile was theirs as well and that is where the sheep was headed. She hopped into her pickup truck and accompanied us onward. By the time we arrived the Ewe was in the tall grass and we did a replay. One difference however this was no little waterway this was a river. Not sure how deep and about 40 feet wide, Glenda did not think it was over our heads. Surely this Ewe would not jump in that. Well, wrong again. Never in my twenty years of shepherding have I caught a sheep under water! Caught she was however and I had her. She was not escaping me now. I hauled her with all my might up to the banks edge and Glenda grabbed her. I hog tied her legs and Gwen threw us a nylon strap to tie around her legs and she pulled the Ewe up the bank with the 4×4. Into the back of Glenda’s truck she went and we went after Ewe #1. Together the two for the road accompanied me in the back of Glenda’s truck to our home farm where her lambs were glad to see them.


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