Saturday, October 9, 2010

On Buying animals one is not ready for...

We drove 2 hours to buy the sheep.  We drive back two hours with the sheep in dog crates in the back of our Trailblazer.  But when we get there, there is no safe place to put them.  This is because the owner of the sheep called too late for us to do anything but head down to Miranda's Feed and Fence to buy a roll of horse mesh fence, a 12 foot tube panel, a gate and some alfalfa pellets.

We knew we were going to put them in a horse stall, but it meant a bit of work - the "stall" was never finished - the barn is done but the horses had access to a 24x 16 area which we always meant to divide into two stalls and a walkway.  We set up the panel to divide the area into 2 stalls, and put the gate on the access to the outside, (had nothing to do with sheep and a lot to do with the fact that my husband would dearly love to lock my mare out sometimes, and even a temporarily nailed on 2x4 doesn't work with her).

Then we took an old 10 foot gate out of my tack room (it was holding up my saddles, so now my saddles are on the floor, temporarily, grumble) to close up the front of the new enclosed stall.  Pipe panels and gates are made for horses - sheep can wiggle through, and it is like they aren't even there for dogs.  We needed to block the line of sight and any wiggle room off so the dogs and horses could get used to the sheep (I sprayed water in the face of any dog who even remotely looked like "Ooh, chase" when they looked at the sheep).   We ended up blocking all the areas with pallets and scrap wood. So the sheep are confined, but it isn't pretty.  It is temporary.

My husband is leaving in two days for two weeks, and we need these sheep to have some run around room in a safe place the dogs can see them and get used to them, but can't get into. Horse fencing is NOT sheep fencing, although it is better than hog wire, but dogs can still get under it.  So we're building a permanent pen of wood posts and either plastic lumber or conduit pipe - real wood gets chewed on by horses and will rot in the 200 inches of rain we get a year.  The posts are up, now we need to figure out what goes into them, and to place another gate.  Eventually, we'll extend the roof off the barn and make a 12x12 shed for the sheep to sleep in, which can double as a lambing shed.

This small pen will be a good place for the sheep to get used to grass again.  They haven't had fresh grass for well over a year, because Kona is very, very dry - extreme drought.  If you turn out a sheep out onto lush grass after having none, they will gorge and they will bloat.

Buying animals when we aren't ready for them (or taking animals people give you - I was a geriatric home for horses for a long time until I finally started saying NO.  Burying horses is no fun, no fun at all) is not new for us.  I got my first Big Island horse when I was still living in the tent.  The horse had a house before I did.  It was waiawi poles and a fiberglass roof, but it was a house....

I am anxious about these sheep.  I read our sheep books and Backyard Livestock by Steven Thomas and George Looby DVM and see that of the common diseases of goats there are three listed and the common diseases for sheep takes up three PAGES.  I read that I will have to squeeze a gland in their foot if it gets plugged up by mud, make sure that they are not getting infested by maggots in their hair (hair sheep, not wool sheep), make sure they don't have bot larvae up their nose...the list goes on and on.....YIKES!

Tomorrow is worming day.  I will let you know how it goes.  The previous owner said he has to get his adrenaline pumping before he does it because it is bad, bad, bad - but I have wormed unwilling horses, so....well, hopefully, the 200lb ram won't give me trouble.  He did try to butt me today, but I put my hand out and yelled, "No!" like I do to the dog; I am actually shocked that it worked.  I have no experience with sheep and he reminds me of my dog, this ram, was an instinct thing.

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