Sheep

Part 1 – The Battle of the Green Stuff – by Christian Ahlmann.

Sheep1Once upon a time, we invited a mob of sheep to mow the vineyard rows during rainy winters at Six Sigma Ranch. Many of you have met the mob. They do a great job.

Then we thought, “wouldn’t it be great if the sheep could keep moving through the spring?” To accomodate the sheep (read: keep them from eating the grape leaves), we re-pruned the vines to grow taller, setting the grapes above 4 ft, out of reach of the sheep. The sheep, smarter than we give them credit for, learned to stand on the irrigation wires so they could reach the green foliage. The vineyard team (including yours truly), was not to be outsmarted by the woolly weeders. We began to raise the irrigation wires out of reach of the little hooves.

Sheep2Alas, the sheep began to use each other as step stools, standing on their back legs while resting their front legs on another sheep’s back. Taking turns, they began to chew on the canopy. We were back at square one. And now: Meet Barley, Director of Spring Mowing at Six Sigma Ranch. Standing a proud 24″ tall, Barley’s short and stout frame makes him the perfect candidate for eating grass while leaving the grapevines alone. Keep an eye out for more Baby Doll Southdown sheep as we grow the short-legged flock to keep Barley company!

Part 2:More Sheep Management – by Else Ahlmann.

Sheep3Our sheep are now spending their time in the “summer quarters”, the pastures across the road from our tasting room. Maybe you’ll see them by the pond or in the pastures close by when you drive in for a tasting.

Rachel has figured out that if she lets the sheep graze in a big pasture, they’ll eat all their favorite grasses first and then start looking with sadSheep4 eyes at a field full of less tasty tufts. On the other hand, if she restricts them to a smaller area at a time, they’ll do a better job munching their less favorite greenery. The simplest way to make a small restricted area is by using portable electric fence, so every few days you’ll find Rachel in the pasture, either alone or accompanied by Caleb, who’ll turn 4 in the fall, and Elizabeth, who is now 18 months old. Caleb is a great help when the light fence needs to be taken down and the sheep have to be coached into fresh pasture.

In another deal of livestock management, we have decided to aim at having the lambs born in the fall when the grass starts greening up. Counting back, this means that the ram should camp out with the ladies in a period of time in the spring but then go to a different pasture with a Sheep5couple of buddies for the rest of the year. In theory, this sounds simple; however, we have found that it takes extremely good fence management to keep the two genders from romance. Our new young ram, Ramsey III, was smart enough to sneak through a small breach in the fence, and his first offspring, a couple of beautiful brown lambs, saw the light of day already in june.

Well, we live and learn!!



Christian Ahlmann

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