I feel like every second thought I have begins with “it never occurred to me that…” Today’s version: It never occurred to me that sheep urine could freeze in such a thick layer around their bale feeder that they have trouble staying upright when they’re trying to eat. Thoughts like this are always followed up with “if only I had more experience…” Then I call my friend and sheep-raising mentor Bill Fosher to tell him about the latest thing I didn’t have the foresight to avoid. The only surprising part of this sequence is the frequency with which Bill tells me he’s never heard of such a thing happening. I’m not sure that I should be proud of finding new ways to complicate my sheep’s lives, but I do feel some relief.
This pattern started back in November, barely a week after the sheep had arrived on the farm. I was gathering them from their day-grazing pasture into the night paddock when I heard some weak moaning coming from the pasture. I got out my flashlight and followed the sound and found this:
Two sheep had gotten themselves so profoundly entangled in a patch of multiflora rose that they couldn’t move and could barely breathe. I was certain they were going to die, and that my failure to anticipate an obvious hazard had doomed them. After an hour of pruning (with flashlight in my mouth — hadn’t yet unpacked my headlamps), I got them free, and discovered that they were not even remotely dead. They both still have bits of rose bush dangling in their wool, but are otherwise fine. When I made my mea culpa call to Bill, I expected to hear that, of course, you can’t graze sheep in a field with rose bushes, but instead he told me that he’d done the same thing for thousands of sheep-days with no trouble. Hmph.