Ifs, ands, buts and a couple of reasons


You want to visit my farm? Today?

I’ll have to be honest. I wouldn’t want you to visit my farm today, especially if you want to see the whole place…including the remote pastures. Maybe you can come back in a few weeks?


OK….come on over. But I have to warn you – there are some things I’d rather you didn’t see.

Here we go.

Spring was wet, summer was incredibly dry, and we didn’t have rain until September. When we finally got rain, it poured for nearly an entire month. That means we haven’t been able to do everything as we’d like. Probably sounds like some lame excuse to keep you away, right?

Here’s what’s going on.

For now, the sheep are confined to one pasture. It’s plenty big, but as much as we’d like them to be grazing a new field of grass, they’re nibbling away at a bale of hay. We can’t move them to a new pasture because the fence charger isn’t working. Part of the reason the charger isn’t working is because there’s excessive debris on the fence at the stream crossing, and also because of some trees that fell on the fence when we had heavy rain and wind. Not only that, we can’t get back to the area to work on the trees because it’s simply too wet. The truck has 4WD but we aren’t willing to put permanent ruts in the pastures we’ve worked so hard to maintain.

The fence in this stream bank crossing caught a lot of mud, debris and trash from the past season's heavy rain, which means the fence charger isn't working effectively.

(Not to mention the fact that it isn’t really much fun to bounce wildly out of the tractor seat when raking hay in a rutted field.)

Can we visit the animals in the barn? Sure, we can go out there, but I’ll have to loan you a pair of boots. I promise they won’t leak. You’ll need boots for a couple of reasons: one, it’s (still) a muddy walk to the barn; two, I really want to make sure that you don’t bring in anything contagious on your shoes. Sheep and goats are prone to foot rot, which is caused by several microorganisms including Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum. If you’ve walked through an area where infected sheep or goats have been, those pesky bacteria can easily come in on shoes or boots and infect my animals. Foot rot is painful to the animal, and it’s hard to get rid of once it’s in a group of sheep.

Sorry about the shabby arrangement of wool bags and that wool bagging stand in the middle of the floor. Now that I look at it from your point of view, I can see that it looks kind of sloppy turned on its side. But I’m leaving it there. By using the wool bagging stand to divert the sheep toward the chute, I can move them by myself from one area to the next without stressing them.

Oh yeah. Those are lambing jugs. Not too professional-looking, I know. They’re sections of hog panels, bound together with a hodge-podge assortment of twine; some orange, some white, and even a bit of old-fashioned sisal. It’s a pretty good system – they stay upright and they’re quite sturdy, and that’s what really matters. I suppose it’d be easy enough to make a neat set of pens, pick a twine color and

Lambing jugs made with hog wire panels can be put together in any combination for just the right size.

stick with the theme, but we use what we have. The assortment of wire panels hanging on the wall allows us to combine different-size panels to create just the right size space for moms and their newborns when they need a bit of extra TLC. And no, we don’t adhere to any animal ‘welfare’ organization’s guidelines about how long the animal can stay in the pen. We think we know best when it comes to caring for our animals.

Hmm…. Forgot about the cobwebs. I guess it looks like we don’t bother to clean up too often. Honestly, I started to sweep them down at the end of summer, but realized that those cobbies were helping catch mosquitoes. Lots of diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes, including West Nile virus and several types of encephalitis that can be transmitted to humans. The cobwebs will stay.

Why is that lamb in a pen by itself? I spend a lot of time just watching my animals to make sure they’re healthy and behaving normally. I noticed that this particular lamb wasn’t joining her friends at feeding time, so I moved her to a private suite so I could watch her more closely. No, I didn’t call the vet. Farmers routinely take animals’ temperatures, heart rates, and listen to stomach sounds. We watch for signs of illness, and make extra trips to the barn (no matter what the weather is) to check on an animal that isn’t up to par. We know how to do a pretty darned complete once-over to check for illness, and are familiar with the problems that each species is prone to. We also know when to call the vet, and our vets appreciate an accurate assessment of our animals’ condition before they come to the farm.

Oh…our guardian dogs get to choose where they want to be. If that means staying inside with a group of young goats, that’s where they stay.

Livestock guardian dogs are better left alone when it comes to decisions about where to hang out. They really do know where the predators are.


That lamb? She’s fine now. She’s eating hay and grain, drinking water and her poop is normal. Yeah, farmers look at a lot of poop. Sometimes it’s the best way to tell what’s going on in the animal’s gut. It’s also great for the land.

If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to take that lamb back to join the rest of her friends. They’ll be happy to see her.

One more thing: please ask me any questions you have. Any. I’d be honored to be the one to help you learn more about why we do what we do.

And when you visit, I hope you appreciate the sunset and the view as much as we do.


Late autumn sunsets make it worth staying outside!




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2 responses to “Ifs, ands, buts and a couple of reasons

  1. Sally, I found your post on Ryan Goodman’s Blogging for Agriculture page. I am a northwest South Dakota ranch wife. And a born and bred Nebraska ranch girl.

    Excellent job on this post. Sometimes our yards and barns are not picked-up, but they are functional. I love how you describe things that look out of place, but have a reason or purpose for why it is there!

  2. Thanks, Robyn…
    I guess our farms never look like something from a picture book, but I think we all aim for animals that are healthy and well-cared for.

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