Sometimes farming success comes down to having a strong-shouldered helper.
Jered Smith (nephew of Mark the Evangelist) has been helping me out once or twice a week for the last 6 months or so; his good nature and youthful strength have gotten me out of more than one jam. Today he was helping me set T-posts and cattle panels to establish the edge of my new sheep-handling system. My balky shoulder doesn’t like the post pounder much, and the 16-foot cattle panels are hopelessly awkward for one person to move, so I was delighted that Jered was able to make it today.
We got the cattle-panel fenceline up in much less time than I expected, and the new system is pretty much ready for its trial run on Saturday.
Over the course of the summer I’ve realized that off-site grazing will be a major part of my operation, and I needed to make sheep handling and trailer loading more efficient if I wanted to survive beyond my first year of farming. The new system (hopefully) meets a number of needs I discovered this summer:
- It gives me a permanent place to load and unload sheep at my farm, rather than trying to make a temporary enclosure each time I move the flock.
- It’s centrally located, so I can easily move sheep from other parts of the farm to the handling/loading area, and it’s also next to the barn, so that sorting sheep for shearing next year will be much less of an ordeal.
- It combines a loading area with my handling and weighing equipment, so that I can efficiently unload sheep, weigh them, sort them, and get them off to their next appointments.
The system will get its trial run next Saturday when I move the flock from the Woodbury place to Holt Road. With each trailerload of sheep, I’ll need to bring them to my farm, unload them, weight them all, and sort out the lambs from the rest of the group. The lambs will be held aside so I can put them in a weaning pasture (far from mom) while the rest of the flock loads up and goes to Holt Road. As I was previously set up, the sorting and weighing would have taken an entire day by itself, spreading the flock move over 3 days. Now I’m hoping the detour to my farm will only add a couple of hours to the work on moving day.