The sheep need drenching. This is the professional-farmer-term for sticking a sort of water pistol in a sheep’s mouth and squirting in viscous liquid wormer. Nice. They also needed pedicures before being moved into a different field for some spring grazing. In my book this qualifies as a top sort of day and is much better than being at my desk.
However, it’s a well-known fact that Christopher and I come close to divorce when it comes to sheep. Christopher will tell you that he finds it awkward to help hold the sheep – it hurts his back because I am so slow at administering their drugs / foot trimming etc. This is simply not true. The real reason is that Christopher has a completely warped sense of his own strength and is fearful of holding the sheep in case he crushes them to death. Given that Christopher is not the Incredible Hulk and is about as gentle with the sheep as Little Bo Beep – this is very far from likely.
Anyway, rather than risk another slanging match in the middle of a field our friends Glenn and Wendy came over to help me with the sheep instead, and Christopher buggered off to do other less sheepy type jobs elsewhere on the farm. Glenn used to be our shepherd before he gave it up, and has taught me everything I know about sheep. Wendy is his second in command and is equally proficient. Reassuringly though, Glenn and Wendy have the occasional row over sheep too – apparently among the farming community sheep are well-known marriage-testers.
The one thing I need to practice more is turning sheep on their backs. I can do it with men – easy – but not sheep. This is the position they need to be in for a foot trim, shearing etc. The technique relies wholly on speed. You grab a sheep, turn its head back towards its arse – fast and firm – and it has the effect of bringing the sheep to its knees. You would too. You then grab its front two legs, lift it, and plonk it back down so that the sheep is sitting on its tail, resting its back against your legs. It’s a rather ungainly position for a sheep, but they stay completely quiet and still like this, so it’s safe to wield foot shears and get down to business. My problem is that our Romneys are about 14 stone so if you’re not quick at this technique, they tense up, go rigid and render the whole exercise impossible.
Rounding up even tame sheep can be a challenge too. When we have whole flocks on the farm, a shepherd will work them with a dog to wherever they need to be. Glenn is expert – but today his three collies stayed in the back of his pick-up because our hand-reared sheep have no fear of dogs so this method won’t work. The tactics I deploy are rather more comical – I put some sheep food in a bucket and shake it shouting ‘come on girls – breakfast’ and they all come running.
So we rounded the sheep up, penned them in, and one hour later all nine sheep were drenched and foot trimmed and trotted happily back into their field again. No harsh words had been exchanged between any of us, no injuries sustained to either sheep or shepherd, Christopher returned from whatever pointless mission he’d been on – and we all went back to the farmhouse for a cuppa. Very civilised.
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