Sorting Sheep on Our Family Farm

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On our family farm there is the right way, the wrong way, and Bob’s (Dads)  way! Our farm dates back a long way. Built well before we purchased and moved onto it in 1969.  My father was raised on a farm, his father was raised on a farm and his grandfather was raised on a farm, so on and so forth! It was never a question of “if” we would have a farm, it was “when” we have a farm.

In 1969 I was 4 years old, my sisters were 6 and 7.  I can still remember my parents lighting the cob stove in the kitchen for all three of us to huddle in front of, while they drug load after load of items to the house.  They had to use a homemade sled because the drifts were over the fences and we did not own a tractor or anything to move it yet.  Their homemade sled, was a flat 4 by 8 sheet of galvanized tin. Baling wire was looped thru  holes in the corners and a roped threaded thru them and tied to make a handle to pull it with.
We were lucky, we had buildings already in places and getting livestock was the next obvious step.
We have had sheep since 1969. Starting out with some bred western crossbred cull ewes and quickly moving into a show quality herd of Hampshires.  Similar to any other farmer & their thoughts of the livestock they raise,  no other sheep is as good as a Hampshire now.
The reason I tell you all this is, it leads up to sorting sheep today. Years ago, we ran approx. 500 head of ewes. Don’t forget Hampshire ewes!  We built up to this quite fast. Because of this, we did not have enough room, in the warmest buildings we lambed in for all of them at the same time. They had housing, don’t get me wrong. Just not enough room in the warmest buildings Dad  preferred to lamb in. Not having the room to house them would have been a crime. There are two things we will never forget, the animals eat before you do and if you can not house it, or take care of it, you should not have it. Having the barn/building was important, if they choose not to use it, that was fine.
Once the snow flew we had a routine. Every weekend, we ground hay and sorted sheep as lambing season approached. You develop quite an ability to feel what you could not see and decipher what you do see.
250-500 head, we sort sheep every weekend… Fast forward to 2019. Dad is now 86, will not loosen the reins on the farm, and has 2 small groups of ewes. This first group of Approx. 28 was bred first and are the oldest.
We have a lot more buildings now then we ever had when we ran 500 head. ALL the ewes he owns could fit into the lambing barn with room to spare, A lot of room to spare. Yet here we are today, with a below 0 windchill. Going thru all 28 older ewes to mark 5-6 starting to bag and sort off 5 ewes that are the closest! They are not going to lamb in the next two weeks. Today is the day he decided we would do it and today is the day we must do it.
We could use the building as it was intended and keep all 28 ewes in at night. We have pens, water and feed with a heater running in the 1/2 of the building for newborns, a wall separating that and a large open area on the other side that has become a cluttered maze of panels that go this way and that to make smaller areas, block things, and funnel animals. All held together with baling twine, baling wire and spring clips.
But no, there is a right way, a wrong way and Bob’s way!
I will be sorting ewes every week or two thru the winter. He will decide the who, the what, the when and the where. I will be right there, doing it “Bob’s way” even after he is gone.

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