Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Watching hay

Are we half done yet?
Do I have enough hay to get thru the month?
Can I afford enough hay to get thru next month?
Should I worm them now?
What about CDT shots?
Wow, there are so many questions we have to answer before we can claim shepherd status.
This is usually a down time in sheep-life.
This year we have the newest thing in talk groups. I am definitely too old for this stuff.
Not only can I think of ten things more important than spouting my opinion, but I can't even figure out how to do it. Honest!
I spent minutes there today, trying to find the last comments in a "group". I didn't.
Oh well....better to do the dishes. Besides, in this "close-knit" group of shetland shepherds, there are never any disagreements that can make me chuckle. It might raise my eyebrow to see who is who's friend.
Really? I didn't know.
Shepherds are a singular folk. We have to be. It's hard enough to find a vet when we need one. We sure can't tell some other breeder we don't agree with their color concepts, or marking choices. I came really close to being "friends" with the older group of breeders. You know, the ones who didn't mark down anything involving "white spots". Horrors! Broken fleeces were spoken about in whispers....not posted on any board that would accept the breeders bragging rights. "that spot will go away when you breed her" Now discussions include eye spots that are too big...too small....too connected....too much the same color of the sheep. OK....which end is 50% black???? Should I use yuglet or not? If the white isn't perfectly fitting into the most recent marking discussion....maybe I should cull. Produces poor spots....doesn't come up for cookies....won't walk on a halter. Got dirty eating hay. I just don't get into this new stuff.
A sheep is a sheep is a sheep.
What in the world is wrong with that?
Pretty soon they will be building sheep to show by cloning. Whoops, they already do a straw...get the perfect sheep.
I'm too old for this stuff. I don't appreciate the beauty of percentages. I appreciate the beauty of sheep. If I should decide that a sheep has several bad points...and I should "cull" sure aren't going to hear about it. I may want to sell that sheep to you. Then I'll put out a list showing all that sheep's good points...and likely add that I HATE selling this sheep, but I've run out of room. Here's a clue.....if a breeder has really run out of room, and loves all their sheep.....they move or stop breeding. Well, there is the alternative. We get older and change our priorities too. Do you know how amazing it is to have a breeder with the flock number 1.....10.....200? Imaging having sheep for ten years in a row.....20? Wow. Those folks are settled!
They really must love sheep.
I have, since I started buying sheep and breeding the rams to the ewes....saved certain lines of sheep for myself. Sometimes, it was the best marked sheep. I almost lost a very good friend because I wouldn't sell my first yuglet bielset sokket ram to her. I kept him...he was mine! I kept him pretty well until last January when I lost him to a couple of rams who should have been pulled out of his pen. Maybe I should have sold him....too late. I'm still learning some of the in's and outs of sheep. This year, I pulled. There were times when I refused to sell lambs at all....yes, I lost clients then too. But, I always found someone to sell them sheep. In the last couple of years, I have tried to part with some of those special lines...those special sheep. I have actually sold them. Some of them have been sold again....I regret having my little sheep moved all over the country. In some cases, I think they are well placed....and likely happy. Maybe happier than they would be in my flock. Better fed. I know many ewes depend on their daughters and dams to help out at lambing time, and I see sisters eating together when their daughters are sold....I regret selling some of those sheep. I, like some of the other breeders (who I chide for doing the same thing) I may have to buy back those sheep if they go up for sale.
Then there are those breeders and new clients who buy sheep from me....that are for sure better than I am. I am so happy to hear from them, they send photos, brag about their friendly sheep....and treasure the fuzzy little ones....just like I do. But better.
Yes, I think of my sheep like they were personalities. You shouldn't do that. Don't!
My shepherding came at a time when I needed to replace the care-giving roll I had played for over a dozen years. The sheep took on replacement rolls. They replaced my job with a different one. They helped me survive. For that reason, they matter to me. Their faults, real or imagined, are not important. They are a parallel life form that I have the honor to walk with every morning. What an honor to have sheep who will follow me, trusting my judgement about where they are safe. Some sheep like me....some, like the people they substiture for...don't.
I'm willing to put up with them. Just the way they are.
Now, I have to go feed out some more hay.
Wonder if I should buy hay today?


At 7:27 AM, Blogger Karen B. said...

M.E., you speaketh the truth. Thanks for selling me my first Shetlands all those years ago. You're a Shetland genetics guru.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Gail V said...

And I hope I'm one of the breeders you are happy you sold some of your babies to. . . because they are some of my best and favorite sheep. (Who ARE eating well up here in MN-- we have just enough hay for the winter, I think).
Good to hear from you again.


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