Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guardian Animals for Your Sheep

Guardian animals is a kind gesture you can do for your sheep -- leaves them with less stress.
There are usually three kinds of guardian animals: donkeys, [sheep] dogs and llamas. The latter I really know very little about, other than that it should be a female and a lot of sheep owners do use them.
I personally picked donkeys, not that I’m not a dog lover, because I always have been; but because, not only is it just me taking care of animals, but a dog has to have a special bowl of food taken out to him/her every day. While I leave the farm very little for anything more than one day, there are still those times. I then would be asking a neighbor to not only feed the farm animals, but to put a bowl of feed out for the dog(s) that is guarding the sheep. (My house dog goes with me!)
There are many benefits for having a dog, however, and there are several different breeds to choose from. The dog, once trained, can take the sheep to outlying pastures for a day of grazing and then bring them back to their protected area at evening. It would seem to me that unless your flock is very small, that you would almost have to have at least 2 guardian dogs. The dog has to sleep sometime and while their ears are very keen, this would give at least four ears to hear of impending danger.
I chose donkeys however because the donkey eats hay and grass just like the sheep do -- and will even eat some of the ’weeds’ that the sheep will not eat … so everybody is happy! Again, they should always be females that are in with the flock.
I now am leaning towards miniature female donkeys as when winter comes and you are putting out second-cutting hay and alfalfa (both of them the high-end of hay prices!), the hay is not being devoured by a medium size donkey. The miniature size donkey also remains a similar size to the sheep, thus not intiminating them with the larger size of a standard (aka Jerusalem) or full-size donkey (size of a regular horse).
Again, unless your flock is very large, one donkey is probably the best, as otherwise, they tend to hang around together ... rather than with the sheep.
Donkeys are notorious for hating canines (dogs). My donkeys ’tolerated’ by house dogs - the house dogs stayed clear of the donkeys … they all seemed to have this ’understanding’! But the hatred for canines carries over to coyotes as well, which can be a real menace to any flock of sheep. If you have neighbors nearby who allow their dogs to roam, not only would I post a sign that states there is a guardian donkey on duty 24/7, but personally notify your neighbors that donkeys will kill canines should they come into ’their’ field.
It sure can give peace of mind at night or when you are away, that something is guarding your livestock ALL the time!
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke 2:8
God bless .... Diane

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sea Salt, Sea Kelp & Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Welcome again to my blog. I’m enjoying refreshing my memory on all this. Hope it is helping you some too!
This week we need to talk about salt, minerals and diatomaceous earth (DE). The latter sounds like a big word - so DE is easier!!
Every person and/or mammal that I know of needs salt. The table salt that most people use - unfortunately, is of little value to anyone, with the exception of maybe a small amount of flavor added. The salt that is MOST beneficial -- and should be used for humans and animals -- is sea salt. WOW … what a difference in taste … especially when fresh-ground. However, the latter is hardly practical for livestock. I had to do a little research at first and some scouting around, but finally found a health-food store that stocked 50 lb. bags of sea salt. They also carried Sea Kelp and DE (Diatomaceous Earth). (Note: Sheep have difficulty with a salt block like you would put out for other livestock and therefore, will hardly use it.)
In my different paddocks, I don’t have a covered area in each one, so am forced, during rain, to take the feeder in the barn … or loose the minerals/salt. However, during dry periods - or even just a day of decent weather, I leave the mineral/salt blend out for their free-choice. The sheep see me coming with the feeder and there is no coaxing - they love it. I use about an even amount of sea salt, sea kelp and DE. When first starting with it, I would probably add a little more salt so as to get them to use it.
Sea kelp is just loaded with beneficial nutrients and minerals to help keep your sheep healthy, and their wool beautiful.
DE is used to help diminish or completely eliminate infestations of worms. It is a very fine powder (almost feels like body powder), that is actually ground-up oyster shells. It acts as ’knives’ on the worms, cutting them and expelling them from the animal’s body. I have used it on other farm animals and my dogs. If you already have a heavy infestation - or suspect same, DE may not be enough to get rid of the worms quickly enough. Used on a regular basis for the sheep, however, you should have little to no occurrence of worms … along with rotating them from field to field. (A study done at the West Virginia University several years ago in which the ONLY thing WVU did was to move sheep from one pasture field to a new one every day --- NEVER had occurrence of worms. They were being paid for that study, as well as students earning a degree, so could spend time building and tearing down fences. Most farmers do not have that luxury.)

"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth:" Ps. 104:14
Blessings -- Diane

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rotational Grazing Fields

On the right, in the first picture above, shows a field that the sheep left a few days ago … it is in its process of recovery and will not be touched for a good week or more. The paddock at the left in the same picture, is a portion of the paddock that is shown in picture 2. It has nicely recovered - after having sat for about 2 weeks or so.

Picture 2 shows another view of the paddock (as mentioned above), that the sheep left several weeks ago. It has nicely recovered. Just below the recovered paddock (at back of picture), is another paddock that they have not been on yet. I need to either weedwack it or bring the tractor in to cut off several inches of the top of the grass.

The 3rd picture is of a newly clipped paddock. This is the first time the sheep have been on this paddock for this year. I just finished brush-hogging it BUT ONLY DOWN A COUPLE OF INCHES. It still stands about 3-4” tall. If this section was left not brush-hogged, they would waste a great deal of it, as it would be too tall for them to come down on top of the grass. Cutting the top of the grass also helps prevent the grass from scratching their eyes … which can cause additional problems.

This last picture is of an “electric” fence that I set up to get the sheep from one paddock to a new one, and NOT go on the old paddock shown to the left. It is merely a ‘lane’ -- and not electrified either! I have tied plastic bag strips so that they can see it (or use surveyor’s tape). Once they are use to seeing --AND FEELING-- electric fence - unless spooked, they will not go near it.

"Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house." Proverbs 24:27

Blessings! Diane