Somehow October has crept up on us, and instead of having our animals nicely separated into the correct fields we’re having to be a little reactive. The challenge is which animals to have in which field. It’s a logic problem, and here are the parameters:
With the sheep we have:
- Two Soay OAP rams
- Muga (Soay ram)
- Haan (Boreray ram)
- Four mule ewes
- Five Suffolk ewes
- Six Soay ewes
- Two Boreray ewes
- Two Boreray castrated males
- 12 ewe lambs from this year who need to go on holiday in December
- 3 ewe lambs from the OAPs which we plan on keeping (as they have lovely colouring and aren’t related to Muga)
- 18 castrated (hopefully) male lambs from this year
We also have:
- Five goats
- Two alpacas
- Two cows
The rules are:
- The rams cannot share a field (except the two Soays, but for example Muga couldn’t share with Haan – they’d fight and it would be bad)
- Any female in a field will be covered by the rams in that field (though the OAPs are least likely, and may not at all), therefore the ewe lambs need to be in a field free of rams
- The cows can’t share with Muga (he tends to ram them and it all gets a bit fraught).
- We prefer the ram to be smaller than the ewe, so Haan should not cover any Soays.
- Castrated males are considered neutral and can share with any group.
- The goats need to stay in the home field so that they have access to proper shelter.
We also have these aspirations:
- Achieve maximum covering of our ewes.
- Take 12 of the ewe lambs on holiday in December (requires they get used to some handling)
- Try and get some Boreray crosses with a Mule and a Suffolk
- Keep the young Soay OAPs separate this year, to be bred with Muga next year.
- Keep White Face in with Muga to see if she can manage triplets four years in a row!
- Keep the number of animals in each field to below a reasonable limit, say thirty or so (to make Winter feeding easier).
We started work on the solution yesterday. Part of the challenge was that the two large groups of sheep were a mixture of lambs and adults, and needed to be filtered. At least we didn’t need to worry about the goats and the alpacas, and we could keep the cows where they are for the moment.
We really should have started moving the animals around last month, but given that Muga is still limping I suspect he hasn’t yet made much of an impression on the ewes he’s been sharing with.
Yesterday, just before lunch, we started the moving process with the help of my friend Adam (an extra human sheepdog). We managed to catch about 60% of our sheep in two lots. The Soays and their lambs who haven’t really been involved in feeding were not interested – I’ll need to work on them. We marked the ewe lambs destined for a December holiday with a circle and cross, as we had before, and the male lambs with a sort of croix de lorraine.
After much running, catching, marking and ferrying we had got all the male lambs out of the home field – which now contained the goats, the alpacas, Muga, most of the mule and Suffolk ewes, and one ewe lamb who got away from us. We also managed to introduce a mule ewe (not White Face) and two Suffolks into the Boreray area in the orchard. The male lambs all went in with the OAPs, and we closed off the small field with the cows in it and put the four ewe lambs we managed to catch in with them.
This wasn’t a complete success, but we now at least had far less risk of Muga servicing one of his daughters this year, and we also had the potential for Boreray crosses, which should be interesting. Obviously we need to go back and separate out the ewe lambs in the OAP field, but we have a little bit of time for that.
That was yesterday.
Around lunch time today we realised that one of the Suffolk ewes, and the Mule ewe, who we had put in with Haan had both broken through the electric fence to be in with the ewe lambs and the cows. Not a disaster, but irritating, especially as we now need to fix the fence as well.
Still, we may have been late to get round to sorting it out, but it’s nice to have a plan, and have taken the first few steps to achieving it!