Today is going to be a busy day here at Spring Rock. Today is a sheep drafting day. We are going to ultrasound scan the ewes on Tuesday to see who is pregnant and who isn't. We will then be able to draft them off (yet again) into a paddock of pregnant ladies and a paddock of girls who didn't get into lamb on their last attempt and are going to be introduced to a ram for a second chance at motherhood.
It's going to be a hot day here so we had to start early. After breakfast Graeme mustered the ewes and put them in the sheep yards. I then went over to help draft them. My job in all this is very easy because of my back injury. Graeme does all the heavy work and leaves me the job of persuading hundreds of reluctant ewes into the race yard. Just a few words here for the non-farmers amongst us who might have never encountered races and sheep yards. The race yard is a triangular shaped yard that has a corrugated lined alley way at the front with gates leading off into three separate holding yards. Imagine a huge corrugated iron funnel and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. Graeme stands at these swinging gates and swings them one way or another according to where the ewes need to go.
Ewes are easier to push through the race than rams because ewes are much less confident around humans. Rams will often stop and argue the point with me as to whether they will go down that race or not. Sometimes these arguments can take quite a bit of persuasion from my end to get the ram through the race. The ram will often not even turn to face me for our discussion, just plant his four feet firmly on the ground near the entrance of the race and say, "Make me!" So then it's up to me to make him. This often ends in me pointlessly tapping him on the rump and asking politely that me moves up. I don't like yelling at the sheep because they are nervous enough around us and I think raising our voices only makes them twittier. Graeme on the other hand is old school and raises his voice often. My useless tapping finally gets to Graeme and he comes down to us from his side of the fence and enters the argument. It doesn't last long after that. The ram realises he'd much rather join his friends who have gone down the race, but so as not to lose face he ambles slowly along the alley way and almost snears at me as he comes out the open gate. Farrer of course is a different matter. He is our very friendly ram and the reason he doesn't move is because he's reluctant to leave my company and the head scratches I give him when I pass by him moving the rest of the rams through. I'll tell you all about Farrer some other time though.
Back to the ewes. Ewes just need to take one look at me and realise that I have evil human intentions and run down the race to get away from me. They can't see much of Graeme because most of him is hidden behind the corrugated iron so his end of the race looks to be the safer bet to them. There is the odd old lady ewe who will stand her ground and argue the point with me, but her heart is rarely in it and it only takes a push or two on her rear end to make her decide that the other ewes might be right and run down the race after them.
Graeme is drafting today according to whether the ewe was mated a few months ago or if they have a lamb at foot courtesy of a ram lamb who managed to get through a few fences in order to meet the girls just before our last planned mating session. He had his own plans regarding mating and we have quite a few lambs we didn't really want. Once they are drafted into their respective holding yards we then let those we no longer need for the scanning out into their paddock again and hold the scanned ewes and larger lambs we are hoping to put to the rams this time in separate yards. The ewes will be put out into the paddock near the shed where the scanning is taking place next Tuesday and the lambs will be crutched to make the whole mating procedure go smoothly.
I'm sure the sheep must wonder about us. We regularly round them up, run them through a number of gates and yards then force them down a funnel into other yards and then more often than not, we let them go again. They must think we have strange ways to amuse ourselves.