Thursday, January 5, 2012

Smart Farmers

 Every now and again, I find some method or piece of equipment or even sometimes simply a mindset that completely changes how things are done around here.  When we took our last batch of lambs from 2011 into slaughter a few weeks ago, Jason took the time to clean out the old loading chute and ramp.

Perhaps now would be the moment for a tiny bit of farm history...

The property we are renting last had cattle on it about a decade ago and the last time the owners of the property had animals was about two decades ago.  Suffice to say, the original animal handling facilities were built a LONG time ago.  Since then the facilities haven't exactly been kept up.  Jason spent most of a day ripping old fencing material out of frozen layers of mud in the chute and loading ramp.  He also spent a good chunk of time sawing the mostly-dead elderberry tree out of the middle of the ramp so that animals can walk all the way up.  Needless to say, he was a wee bit sore the day after.

Our first experiences with catching and loading sheep involved a lot of worked up sheep, three adults and some spectacular catches along with a nearly broken knee.

Our second experiences with catching and loading sheep involved a lot of making do with lots of random bits of fence and lots and lots and LOTS of baling wire.  And a busted rib from a confused ewe.

On our own farm, our two favorite pieces of equipment for working with our sheep is cattle panels and spiral  Panel Hinges from Premier 1 Supplies.  It's flexible, light-weight, mobile and effective.  We can set it up anywhere and have a pretty good facility for handling and sorting our sheep.

Third time's the charm, right?

Back to the original chute and loading ramp.

With our panels cut into 4 and 8 foot sections and hinged together, we can sort out individuals with one person when everyone cooperates.  Once that's done, we can use the old gates to get the appropriate lambs into the old chute, ready to go.  We even managed to do all this with a minimum of "Baa-ing."  That means they're relatively un-stressed.

Once we set up the rack on our little truck and backed it up to the old ramp we realized the ramp had obviously been built for BIG trucks.  Luckily, our sheep have no problem with hopping down the couple feet into the bed of our truck.

We opened up the gates to allow the lambs up the ramp to the back of the truck. They took a minute to navigate where the elderberry had grown through the heavy boards and then hopped down into the truck without needing to be pushed from behind at all.  We closed up the truck and stood around wondering what we had missed doing.  In the past we always needed to collect more animals or re-collect escapees or otherwise do more work after loading our charges that we felt like we were missing something!

I can now say I have three favorite pieces of handling equipment: panels, hinges and a well-built loading ramp.

1 comment:

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