The day finally came after much procrastination, “I’m going to get sheep. ” It was time to collect them. Having said that I’ve been saying I’m going to get Dexters, a parrot and a chihuahua for years. The chihuahua has been on the list the longest. Years ago when we were small children my dad’s youngest sister had one. She went off on holiday somewhere and we were asked to mind it. My mother, never a big animal lover wasn’t impressed when he cuddled up with us in bed. Dad just laughed. He adored dogs. To this day I remember that dog and the absolute heartbreak when he was taken away. I’ve said for years I’m going to get one and I will.
There are people up the road who breed parrots and I’m avoiding them like the plague because I know what I’m like.
So I finally got around to applying to the Department of Ag. for a sheep herd number. After the fiasco with my pig herd number I was dreading having to deal with them again. My application had hardly hit the mat when I got a call from a man wanting to come to do an inspection. “Ahhh, I’ve got visitors at the moment can you leave it for a week or so?” He replied no, he was going on holiday the week after and it would only take 20 minutes. I almost fell out of my standing. The pig one lasted well over an hour. I said yes.
He landed and didn’t even bother putting on boots. Yer man who did the pig one did and the ground was like a rock after weeks with no rain. I thought to myself I might be onto a winner here. All he seemed interested in was getting my bank account details. For payments. Don’t make me laugh. I asked did he want to see the sheep accommodation. “Ah no, I can see you’ve loads…….”
Then being the cheeky git I am while he was merrily ticking boxes I asked if he could include a cow(s) on the application. He said yes, but you’ll need a crush but just send me a text when you have one. Yahoo!
Actually a crush is high on the list because they are damn useful for pigs too.
So then I waited. And waited. The Zwartbles lambs were ready for collection at end of May. Mid-May I rang and got the usual civil servant spiel……. staff off sick/on holiday/backlog/under-worked/over-paid…… the last two are mine. They told me to ring next week. I did. And then lo and behold, Enda the postman staggered in with numerous heavy brown envelopes. Then for several days after he arrived with more. I’ve a swanky shiny herd book, duplicate books, record books, official letters, a big long herd number for TWO sheep and n’er a cow yet. Don’t be fooled, all this is to keep people employed and has a small bit to do with traceability.
I left here at 10am to be in Bennettsbridge at 11. I had to stop for diesel, get a slow puncture pumped and to pee. But I arrived close to 11. I assumed my sheep would be separated and it would just be a question of loading them and off I’d go. But when I arrived Suzanna said you can select your own. So we rounded the entire herd of lambs up and I got a brief lesson. Which were the cross breeds/the pure breeds/the wethers (neutered males)/tail less or with tails. Was a lot to take in. Then she discovered some had scald (a foot infection) so I got a lesson in separating sheep and treating them. The whole thing took 2.5 hours. I was exhausted and actually needed a drink (alcoholic) at the end of it all. Talk about baptism by fire. I actually think I could work with sheep now except there’s nothing to grab the feckers with. At least the goats have collars/horns.
My greatest fear with sheep was they live to kill themselves.
I put them in the small pigs’ shed. I had rung my neighbour on my way home to ask if he’d give me a hand to unload them. Honestly you can’t beat country folk who don’t bat an eyelid at such requests and indeed take them in their stride. He helped me then I realised I’d forgotten to get some hay from Suzanna. He said he’d give me some and arrived down with a huge wheel barrow load. The goats were thrilled.
I really have great neighbours. I know they think I’m spectacularly batty but they humour me and I think they actually enjoy the distraction.
So next day I decided to open the door and let them out into the fenced paddock. The goats had been in and headbutted them. Then when I went off to leave them to their own devices, the ponies (belong to my neighbour) decided to chase them around the paddock. I arrived back to see them plough through the electric fencing to get away into the pigs’ field. The weedy field full of dock and ragwort. There they met the pigs who greeted them civilly by touching noses and then went about their business. I could see the lambs relax visibly. To date they haven’t budged from this field. It is weedy but it’s full of varied grasses and herbs and flowers and they seem very happy browsing. So much so that they have absolutely no interest in me and my bucket of barley. But at least now the one with the white bib lets me scratch his head, His brother is much more wary.
I love watching them. They seem very relaxed. When it’s windy or raining they shelter under the hedge of hawthorn and are warm and dry. They’ve even dug a bank to lie against. They are super cool with the pigs. The little pigs charge up to them to say hello in the morning. I always knew that pigs are socially very advanced but to observe their interactions with the sheep really confirms this.
The more I observe animals the more they fascinate me and the more respect I have for them. We could learn a lot from them and we need to.