The sunrise this morning was breathtaking. The horizon was painted deep purple with many shades of fire. I watched the changing color stretching across the rolling hills behind the silhouettes of my grazing sheep. Magical!
I love having sheep. The breed that I keep is called St Croix, a type of hair sheep, a meat breed rather than a fiber breed. They do not require sheering. The original sheep of this farm came from my ex’s father who could not take care of them any longer. When they came to us they were pretty healthy but required some basic care like trimming nails, etc. Last weekend Linda and I trimmed a nail on one ewe that was out of control, this nail was pointed toward the sky and curling up. It was getting difficult for her to walk or lay down. She had even begun to lay with that leg set out strait in front of her rather than tucked underneath her, like the normal preferred position of sheep and goats. I had tried to cut it back many times but could not get my trimmers to cut through that rock hard hoof. Horse trimmers did the job but it was a slow process, but she is like a new woman now.
My sheep are bred and managed for meat. They are friendly and curious but they are not acclimated to humans like the goats whom I do not eat. (Another story all together). So when I need to treat or help an ewe give birth I have to be very sneaky about it because like the chickens if you even look at them funny they think you are after them. (When a chicken thinks I'm after him/her, I usually am, and it’s usually a him). Sometimes I will even nonchalantly back up to an ewe or a ram and then grab them very gently but firmly and all is fine, but if I walk right toward them looking them right in the eye, they’re gone. I have had to chase down a few sheep and tackle them which is not my preferred method but I have done it.
Right now I only have two older ewes which came from the original stock and two young ewes that were born last year. I have two rams but one is withered (Spot). Yea, I named him. Naming is frowned upon in some circle. Usually live stock pets never work out but last spring we took five rams to be slaughtered and Spot was not one of them. He gets to be with the ewes and frolic all he wants. I bottle fed him as a lamb when his mother rejected him. Knowing full well he was intended for the food chain, I did my best to keep him alive and healthy but he was different, he followed me around like a puppy. My mistake is that I treated him like one, letting him trail along as I did chores and checked the mail box. I chose to “wither” him because his “spot” excluded him from breeding stock and so it was off to the butcher or off with his balls.
At first Spot handled the banding pretty well. After the band was placed around his scrotum he just walked off and ate some grass, a few minutes later he was on the ground having what looked like a seizure. I ran to his side, tried to comfort him but you guessed it he ran away. He stayed away from me for a while but I had to check on the wound I had inflicted so I had to catch him. After the chasing and tackling I determined he was just fine. He let me hold and pet him and seemed to enjoy it greatly although I felt abusive and horrible for doing such a thing to him. It only took about a week for us to be done with those pesky testicles, and we were best friends again.
Spot is all grown up now, we’re not as close as we were back then but we still have affection for each other. He’s getting big, obviously self confident, beautiful and gentle, he seems to look out for the girls. I have a friend who lives close by who is already lambing. I’m going over there this morning for a visit. I am thinking of purchasing some new stock from her maybe eight or nine lamb ewes. My older ewes are at least six years old and will, like Spot likely die of natural causes but I probably don’t want to breed them next season.
Having sheep for me means I have meat in the freezer that I raised myself, I know the joys and heartache of raising animals for food, but I would have it no other way if I choose to eat meat. It is part of this life I have chosen for myself. But I can say in my 42.5 years of life, I’ve seen nothing more beautiful than watching the sheep graze against the backdrop of a passionate sunrise.