Winter is in full swing, and with it comes frozen watering troughs, snow-filled food bins, and fields of graze covered in a thick blanket of fluffy, white stuff. When the cold weather first showed up, I simply broke the ice on their water tubs and keeping them filled with warm water every day. That worked for a couple weeks. Then the week after Thanksgiving came and I found the water frozen solid, 8″ thick in the bottom of the chintzy, stainless steel wash-tubs I was using. The tubs broke as soon as I flipped them over and tried banging the ice out on the frozen ground. So I forged ahead, taking warm water in my large mixing bowls out twice a day for the sheep to drink from. I probably could have continued doing that all winter if I had the gumption to actually stick with it, but it was tiresome and time consuming. And I wasn’t a big fan of having my nice mixing bowls broken or bent by the critters.
There had to be a better way.
Enter the 50 gallon livestock water trough complete with an electrostatic controlled, floating de-icer from Tractor Supply Company. Now I simply haul one or two 5 gallon buckets of tap water out every day, pour it in, and leave it. It’s wonderful! Yes, I’m using electricity. Yes, I could easily survive a winter of hauling warm water to the animals in bowls. But really, I am having more fun spending that time knitting or baking or playing with my boys. For now, we can afford it, so I don’t feel too bad about using it.
December also brings the start of mating season for my woolly little charmers. Caligula and Coffee have been itching to get into the pasture with the ewes. In the last weeks, Cali could be seen flirting with Stormy through the fencing, nuzzling her with his nose and gently pawing at her through the fence. I’m guessing Stormy liked the attention, because she was ALWAYS standing right near the holding pen, even if the other girls were clear over on the other side munching on brambles along the property line.
December 5th was the official reunion date for all of the sheep. I didn’t even have to lead the boys out. As soon as they noticed me opening up their gate and standing back they made a break for it, careening into the ewes pen like two cartoon characters on slippery floors. Cali got right to business on Stormy. Let me tell you, that little ram wastes no time. Since then, they’ve all gotten along rather well… until yesterday. I was looking out the window while doing dishes, and I noticed Cali running around with Stormy hot on his heels. Every time he would stop, Stormy would plow right into his backside and nearly topple the little ram over. Then she would stand there looking down at him, shake her head, and prance off haughty as could be. Now whenever Cali goes near Stormy, she squares here feet apart and puts her head down like she’s going to go after him again. And you know what Cali does? He tries nuzzling her and pawing at her like a little lovesick puppy. The poor thing. I think a sheep soap opera is unfolding.
I’m hoping that with this introduction date, lambs will start dropping around April 29th. Most sheep have a gestation period of between 145-147 days. I should be done worrying about frosts and late snows by then, and will be able to put the weanling lambs straight onto a lush pasture to finish them off for fall slaughter/sale.
One last note. These sheep are indeed hardy little creatures. We got between 6-8″ of snow yesterday, and every time I looked out I could see them all gamboling around as if they were enjoying a warm, spring day. They’ve taken to using the corn crib as their private get away, but are perfectly content frolicking and laying in the snow as well. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of their wool to make mittens and sweaters. It must be good stuff if these sheep don’t feel the harsh bite of winter through it!