Monday, May 12, 2014

Operation Feed the Ewes

Today was a damp and dreary, chilly, rainy morning. It was one of those days when everything needed attention and all I wanted to do was get back in the house. Everything in the lots needed hay and that included the ewes (I know they should be out on pasture, but I have to get fence built first). Feeding the ewes requires a great deal of timing a precision if you are by yourself.
First, I have to have the tractor and bale positioned at the gate into the pen. Then I feed the ewes alfalfa at the far end, this is followed by a dead sprint for me (more of a jog for most people) back to the gate. After the gate is opened, I hop into the tractor drive as fast as I can into the pen, dump the bale off and back out the gate, get out of the tractor and shut the gate. All of this has to be done in less than five minutes.
I really ought to have someone film this whole process and maybe farming would finely be profitable. In any case, any hiccup and the ewes escape. There is no sneaking past more than eighty ears and eighty beady eyes.  So back to this morning, I had the tractor and bale strategically parked by the gate and started lobbing my bales of distracting alfalfa over the fence. That is when I noticed the hapless ewe stuck in the fence.
The yearling bull had apparently pushed his feed pan too close to the ewe pen. This action drew the attention of the entire flock of ewes. The speckle faced boss ewe had stuck her head just a little too far through the cattle panel and turned it just enough and became hopelessly stuck. The bull, not appreciating the wooly feed thief decided to butt her in retaliation.
This left me with the dilemma of what to do. Do I go about my feeding plan and let the ewe get pummeled by the bull? Or do I rescue her and risk the whole plan? Even though she deserved every head butt for being greedy I knew I must intervene. I quickly worked her head out at the greater risk of getting my hand smashed. Do you think she even acknowledged my feat of heroism? Nope, she turned and made a dash to the alfalfa.
With precious minutes lost I returned to plan A. About half way to the tractor I noticed the water tank to the 4-H steers running over. The lots are already a muddy mess (I am really sorry for mentioning this if you are one of my friends in the middle of drought) and could ill afford more water, especially water not falling from the sky.  I dodged right to the hydrant, shut it off and gave the hose a good yank. Mission accomplished but I had lost even more time off of a precisely timed operation. Swat teams and Navy SEALs have nothing on my hay bombing raids into the ewe pen.
I finally make it to the gate and fling it open just as the first ewes look up from the remains of the alfalfa and noticed the fat guy at the gate. I reached the tractor cab just as they took aim at the gate. I released the clutch only to find the tractor had slipped out of gear. As I ground it back into first gear the ewes launched and we seemed to be on a collision course. I forgot to mention that I had a meeting mid morning and did not have time to convince the ewes to leave the green pasture and come back to the pen.
All seemed lost, the day had just taken a turn for the worst, and the entire flock of ewes got renamed in a flash. Then the most brilliant thought hit me. I honked the horn on the tractor. The sound of the horn hit the ewes like a brick wall sending them peeling and reeling back in the opposite direction. I throttled the tractor sending a huge black cloud of smoke into the air. The ewes regrouped in the far corner, unsure of the loud, red monster making funny noises and spewing foul smelling smoke.
I drove just far enough in the pen, dropped the bale, turned the wheel sharply, mashed down the inside brake pedal and sent a rooster tale of mud into the air. Once outside of the gate, I slammed the tractor into park, jumped out of the cab (narrowly missing the electric fence on the backside with my backside) and sprinted to the gate. The ewes were now distracted with the new bale and I closed the gate with relative ease. Suddenly the day just got brighter and better, isn’t it funny how quickly one’s perspective can change.

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