Sheep on the lam

As a shepherd, it has been an education and sobering weekend. I have gained a lot of knowledge but realized that I have a lot more to learn. I was excited to go to the Common Ground Fair this weekend as one of Maine’s leading experts in Katahdin sheep was giving several presentations. Since I lived in Unity where the fair is located, it was easy to take full advantage of this opportunity

The first presentation was titled ‘Hands-on sheep care’ and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could. I learned how to rate a sheep by its bite, how to tell if a sheep is a proper weight, how to trim feet, and how to how to do a FAMACHA test. I had done most of these things prior but wanted to absorb all the knowledge that I could.

After going home and practicing on my sheep, I realized that Molly is very overweight and needs to go on a diet stat. You can’t just change a sheep’s diet overnight, so I am trying to wean them off the grain. I felt like a bad shepherd.

I asked if he thought my current fencing situation would keep my lambs safe. I explained that I have the traditional sheep fence with two strands of electric on top. I have the portable electric fence outside as an added layer of protection. He asked what strength my fence was in joules and I did not know. He said anything under two would really not offer much protection. As soon as I got home I went to look at my charger. It was .1 joules. Sobering moment number two. I needed a better fence charger. So far it had done the trick, but I want to keep my sheep safe.

The second presentation was on lambing. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could. I have still not decided if I am going to breed them this fall or not but learned some great tips if I decide to.

I went to bed on Friday pretty discouraged as a shepherd, but really thankful for the knowledge that I had learned.

I was battling a bad cold and had to work on Saturday morning. When I got home early afternoon, I decided that I was going to take a nap as I felt awful. My Dad was down doing some bush-hogging so we were debating what we were going to do about the fence prior to my nap.

When I woke up from my nap, I had a message from my Mom saying that they did not think that the fence was working as Molly was chewing on it. I ran out and it was on and the light indicated that it was working. I went back in and laid back down for a while.

A little after 6 p.m. I decided to go out and put them in for the night. I was going to lock them in the barn since I wasn’t sure that the fence was working. I walked down the stairs and looked out the window and did not see the sheep in the auxiliary pasture. That time of day they are usually there. I then looked in the regular pasture and didn’t see them. Just as I started to freak, they all four went running by in a line at top speed outside of both fences. They had gotten out!

I ran outside and they ran over to me. I was terrified that something could have gotten them. I went into the shelter and got a bowl of grain to get them back in. Two of them jumped up into the shelter with me. They went right back in the fence but lost their auxiliary fence privileges until I could figure out what was going on with the fence.

I tested the fence and realized that there was really no electricity going through it. I touched it and could barely feel any shock at all. After church on Sunday, I went to Tractor Supply and bought a new, stronger fence charger. We got that installed on Sunday afternoon so hopefully, I won’t have any more sheep on the lam. I am just so thankful that I was home when it happened and hopefully they weren’t out too long.

Also on Sunday, I decided that I wanted to weigh them. Since I don’t have a livestock scale, I figured that the best way was to find out what I weigh, then pick up each of them and get on the scale. It worked for three of them. Two of them are 88 lbs, and my little bottle baby Maggie is 68. I could never get a reading for Maggie, who needs to go on a diet. I picked up at least 10 times and got an error reading on the scale every time.


Laura Reed

About Laura Reed

After 15 years in college athletics, the last seven as an assistant athletics director, I was burned out with 70-hour work weeks and extensive travel. I resigned my position and accepted a position in marketing at a small, vibrant college in my hometown of Unity, Maine. In the process I wanted to go back to my childhood where we raised polled Herefords, had a Christmas Tree Farm and spent many hours outside. I decided I wanted to build my own home on beautiful farmland that my family owns. With help from my Dad, the most talented person I’ve ever met, we are building my home together. I have decided to blog my experience – the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations. What was once an open field will one day be my home! The dream in my head is becoming reality. I can just see the lambs frolicking in the field, chickens in the barnyard and going running with my Alaskan Malamute!