We began laying the groundwork for breeding season this weekend. We brought all the ewes back over to the barn paddock, and reviewed their health and lambing records with a critical eye. We then made culling decisions, one of the hardest and least pleasant tasks leading up to breeding. But tough decisions must be made, and once they are, the ewe is silently thanked for the joy she has provided with her unique personality, for the contributions she made to the flock and for the memories she has given our family.
We then began work on the breeding ewes. We are so grateful for the deck chair that we purchased several years ago. It makes these tasks so much easier. Lucy was the first
victim lucky ewe, and her best friend, Minerva, seemed quite concerned; offering her support during the entire process. To get the ewe into the chair, we get on each side of her, back her up, position her legs, gain leverage and (as gently as humanly possible) tip her into the deck chair. This can become quite comical with some of the larger ewes, as we are a bit on the petite side, but with tactical positioning and leverage, eventually we have been able to tip even our largest rams.
As we catch each ewe, we do a quick FAMACHA test. Next, we clean and trim her hooves. This gives her a good foundation for the extra weight she will be carrying come spring time. Most of the ewes are quite content lying in the chair, and Lucy, although this was her first time, acted as if she was at the spa - stretching and pawing at us when we paused and turned to pick up a different tool.
The final task in breeding ewe preparation is crutching. We use blade shears to trim away the wool in the area surrounding the vulva. We feel this is necessary in our long wool sheep to ensure that a greater percentage of the ewes are settled during breeding season, and indeed we have had very few open ewes.
After two long days, we were very happy to finish just before twilight on Sunday. We managed to get all the breeding ewes moved over to the paddock on top of the hill, near the ram paddock, for flushing. We seem to running a little behind with everything this year, so it feels really good to be one step closer to "The Turning In of the Rams'.