What are some of the challenges you face as Shepherds?
There has been much to learn. One of the biggest challenges we face is predators. We want our sheep to live as naturally as possible and as such they have access to the outdoors and their shelters or barn 24x7. Part of our property is forested, which means we have an abundance of wildlife, including coyotes.
In order to help protect our sheep, we have a donkey (Shasta) in with the boys and a llama (Isaac) in with the girls. Donkeys can be very aggressive with canines and will strike out, chase and/or kick them. Llamas are very protective as well and will chase and bite at canines. Isaac is always on the lookout with his long neck and beautiful big eyes. When he senses danger, he will chase the girls back to the barn. Both donkeys and llamas are known to be good livestock guardians. We also have motion lights on all of the shelters, which helps act as a deterrent against coyotes.
Another big challenge has been managing the rams. While the ewes are seasonal breeders, the rams are more than happy to breed any time of the year. Ram lambs can start breeding as young as 5 months old. Outside of breeding season, our rams and ewes are in separate pastures. Being that some of them are related, thought and planning has to go into the breeding program. We have also spent a lot of time and effort on ensuring we have an adequate number of fields and that they are fenced appropriately. When the girls come into heat, the rams will smash through fences to get to them. They will also aggressively ram each other if there is a ewe present.
Keeping our sheep fleece as clean and healthy as possible is another priority that we are mindful of all of the time. As fibre farmers, we want to ensure a premium quality fleece. We take great care when feeding our sheep and try to avoid any hay falling on top of them. When they eat beside each other, they are not as careful! We have learned from trial and error and have also had some help and advice from other sheep farmers. We feed them good quality organic hay that we harvest from our property and ensure that they always have free access to vitamins, minerals and fresh clean water.