The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Sheep on the Move

September 20th, 2013 · 2 Comments · Posted in farming

We are nearing the end of our efforts to mow our overgrown pastures with our sheep. We asked the neighbor who loaned us 17 of his sheep to help get the expanded flock across the driveway for the last leg.

As you can see, pointing the sheep in the right direction takes more than the usual amount of prodding. Usually, the sheep are bunched together along the fence line, waiting not very patiently for me to make an opening into the new pasture. After they’re moved, I come behind them with a rider mower and cut whatever they haven’t eaten.

In the video, you’ll hear daughter reference “Erica,” one of our sheep who died. Over the past four months, we’ve had the sheep mow what had become meadows where they were forced to search hard for grass in the understory and nibble the leaves off weeds that grew several feet high. The oldest sheep and those with health issues didn’t make it. It’s hard to know exactly why. As best we can determine, after consulting local experts, the unlucky ones simply could not stand up to the stress, or they may have ingested poisonous plants we didn’t know were there.

Daughter is behind the camera filming this sheep drive. The video is a little shaky. But it does give an idea what it’s like for us to move the flock on a regular basis using portable electric fencing in a scheme referred to as “rotational grazing.” This way they live entirely outdoors off the land.

Next year should be much easier for them, with lots of grassy pasture to feast on.


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  • Marcello Napolitano

    Ragwort is a weed that is fairly common here that is toxic to ruminants, especially sheep. When I find any in our fields (easy to recognize the yellow flowers this time of the year), I pull it root and all. It is important to find out what plants are toxic to livestock in your area and learn to recognize them.

  • Ed Bruske

    Thanks for that, Marcello. I have not seen any ragwort in our fields. We have tons of golden rod, but as far as I know the type of golden rod we have here in Upstate New York is not toxic.