To date, I haven't mentioned our sheep on this blog, although I've included a photo of one of them skulking in the shadows of the plum tree in the blog sidebar.
We've had a troupe of sheep for about 5 years now, mainly to keep the grass in the hilly back section of our property down. We have a ram, a trio of ewes, and once a year, we have lambing season. The joke around here is to check out the weather report around this time of year, and at least one ewe will lamb on the coldest night forecast.
So it proved this week. Our merino ewe had her lamb on a cold blustery July night. As ever, the lamb is extremely cute! These photos were taken when she was only a matter of hours old. You have to get in quick if you want to take close-ups. After a day or so they are fast and it's difficult to get near them. The mothering instinct on the part of the ewe, and the independence the lamb shows so quickly never fails to fascinate me.
Sheep are much maligned as being dumb, but to my mind, that's simply untrue. They do however have a strong instinct to stick with the flock, so if one sheep gets spooked and runs, the others will follow. They also show distinct personalities. Some friendly and calm, some neurotic, some are excellent mothers, some not so good.
The main thing we have to worry about with this lamb is foxes. Last year we lost one of a set of twins to a fox. We have put mother and lamb into an area that is fenced off with barbed wire, and they will stay there for at least a couple of weeks.
Keeping sheep is pretty straight forward. In our humid coastal area, the main concern is worms. We have to drench the sheep regularly, and move them around different areas, to give feed paddocks a rest. They live mainly on grass, although we give them a couple of handfuls of sheep pellets every day which they stampede for.
Once a year around November we call up a local shearer, and he comes and shears the sheep. He keeps the wool as payment, and when he has accumulated enough fleece from other small acreage sheep, he takes a trip to Goulburn and sells it at the market up there. People ask me whether I spin the wool. The answer is "no" and will stay "no" for the foreseeable future. There are so many other things I would like to do before I learn to spin.
We really enjoy having the sheep, although I don't think the kids are so enthusiastic when I give them gloves and a hand spade and send them out to pick up sheep manure for the compost bin. They get $1 pocket money, but to their mind this is no compensation whatsoever.