A stitch in time…

July 7, 2007
We’ve been selling and delivering a lot of sheep and goats lately. Usually the goats are livelier and harder to handle than the sheep, but our last two deliveries were the exact opposite.

Today we had 5 goats to deliver. The three of us rounded up all the goats, sorted out which ones we needed and had them loaded on the truck so quickly we had to sit around and kill time before we needed to leave. All Right!

Some of the goats munching leaves off a catalpa tree.

Our previous delivery was quite different. We only needed to load 4 sheep. Easy enough. Ha! And again I say, HA!

First off, if our sheep don’t go in the shed the first try, it’s a problem. After that they’re spooked, flighty, and downright hard to manage. Part of the sheep did go right in the shed, but unfortunately, two of those left out were ones we needed to deliver.

Worse, one of those still out was an old ewe that’s half blind. Since she can’t see very well, she gets spooked easily. She runs right past open gates, so instead of going into the lot where we wanted them, she started running round and round in the main pasture. Sheep being sheep, the other three escapees followed her.

The three of us tried spacing ourselves in the field and heading the sheep back towards the gate. The four of them continually zipped through spaces between us and continued their laps around the field. Over and over we tried to head them in the right direction. Over and over they went in the wrong direction.

It became painfully clear sheep and people were all getting hot and winded. We needed a new strategy. We decided to try letting them out into their day pasture, then use some feed to entice them through the gate they’re used to coming in each night.

It seemed like a good idea, but the sheep did NOT cooperate. Instead of running around the pasture, they were now running in frenzied circles around the aviary and sheds, leaping and bouncing against things along the way. More time passed as sheep and people ran themselves ragged in the muggy summer heat. Whose idea was it to try this?? Oh yeah, mine….

Finally the sheep went through a big gate into a lot by the shed and we were able to pen them up. However, it was quickly apparent our troubles weren’t over. One of the ewes had blood running down her face. Lots of blood.

Naturally, it was one of the ewes we were supposed to deliver. Upon close examination, I discovered she had a cut about 2 inches long above one eye, and the flap of skin drooped down every time she blinked. Oh great!

Evidently at one point this ewe bounced against the aviary and a bolt sticking out from it had ripped clear through the skin. After almost a decade of shepherding, I’d never had a sheep that needed stitches. This one did.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any sutures. Also, I needed to know the buyer’s preference. Did she want me to keep the ewe until she was healed and deliver her later? Did she want to suture the wound herself? Did she want a vet to do it?

I called to see how they wanted to handle it, and at their request, we loaded the wounded ewe with the other sheep, and stopped at a vet’s office to have the cut stitched up while on the way to their farm. Nothing like sitting in a hot parking lot waiting on a busy vet after you’re already hot and tired from running half the morning.

Once the wound was washed out, sutured up, and the vet gave the ewe a couple of shots, AND I paid the bill (there goes the profit!), we were finally ready to get the sheep to their new home.

Our friend with one of her Great Pyranees and a few of her sheep.

Fortunately, unloading the sheep was pretty easy, and we were able to enjoy a nice visit with the buyer. She has beautiful sheep and wonderful guard dogs and we enjoy chatting with her, but I must admit it was a relief to finally make it home again and put that fiasco behind us.

Which just goes to prove, a stitch in time isn’t always a time-saver!

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