Earrings for the Woollies

Posted by Nick  | 05 Aug 2015  | 0 comments

Prompted by the limp of one of our Wiltshire sheep – which she’s had on-and-off since her arrival – it was time to proceed with our plan to ear-tag our herd of sixteen. The reason for ear-tagging is simple: ease of identification for tracking health and quality. As you can see, there aren’t many distinguishing traits between these woollies:

We had a couple of friends over during the weekend, so it was an ideal opportunity to tackle this job with extra pairs of hands around. We herded them (the sheep, not our friends) into the stockyards without incident. They’re easily coerced with a bucket of delicious sheep nuts. Suckers.

We’re fortunate that this land came with some stockyards still intact. They’re gnarly, but they do the trick.

It’s a shame we were all a bit too busy to take more photos. There was an instance of me leaping for a runaway sheep and crashing straight into a mud puddle. I did catch the bugger, though!

Everyone had a job. Whilst Char and I dealt with separating the sheep one at a time and tagging them, Dingus kept the rest in check and James was in charge of loading the tagger with the appropriate tag number, dipping it in iodine, and recording any information we shouted out about each sheep. It would have been a lot more hectic without their help, especially since this was our first time doing this sort of thing – thanks guys!

Dingus gave tagging a go, too:

You feel a little apprehensive the first couple of times, because you don’t want to hurt the sheep, and you’re unsure of how much strength you’ll need. But you just have to commit and follow through. I think we all did pretty well for first-timers.

Snap! Ear pierced! Don’t worry, they hardly notice. As soon as we let them through after grading their shedding percentage and checking their gums for anaemia, they were completely absorbed in grazing and scoffing nuts, as if nothing traumatic had happened.

The problem sheep, whom we’ve aptly named Poo-bottom, had a limp and a bunch of hardened dingle-berries. We saved her for last.

With Dingus straddling Poo-bottom, Char went in for the kill, or rather, the trim.

Geeze, Poo-bottom, what have you been eating? All your sisters have clean hineys and drop unoffensive pellets in neat little clusters. Did you find a plate of unfinished vindaloo or something?

Lucky we had all the right tools. Char went to town on that dirty butt. Dingus was also in a prime position for having his dingle-berries trimmed. Shame I didn’t get a photo of that.

Char’s practised with the shears – she cuts my hair after all. Viola:

Much better. Here are three of the hardest nuggets chopped from Poo-bottom’s pooey bottom:

Addressing Poo-bottom’s limp, we clipped her toenails and sprayed some hoof-rot treatment between her toes. Hopefully that does the trick. We’ll keep an eye on her.

It’s a little traumatic for these ladies being rounded up, separated from their herd, man-handled, some of them flipped on their hindquarters, and then having their ears pierced – but it’s for their own good. Tagging is a one-off event, and their check-ups are infrequent. Now we can more easily identify who’s who when a problem arises and track their health.

Though they’re eventually destined for the meat-works after breeding, we want to make sure we can provide them with good lives. There’s no reason to treat livestock like meat before they become it.

It was quite a fun experience. We felt like real farmers. It was lively and kind of exciting, and especially jovial having extra company around to join in the craziness. I hope the ladies appreciate it in their own way, too.

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