A capacity for self-propelled locomotion being one of the hallmarks of what we define as “life,” it follows that keeping track of living things is by no means a simple task. Most creatures, including human beings, are curious by nature, and our innate wanderlust is a manifestation of that curiosity. It’s what has spread our species to every (habitable and not so habitable) corner of the globe, and so we have devised a complicated system of paperwork and documentation to make sure that people are who, what, and where they say they are. Think of I.D. cards, passports, and such as livestock tags for humans.
A few years ago we wrote a blog about “The Naming of Goats.” Then, just recently, while shopping on Etsy, we ran across a store selling name tags for goats. And that got us to thinking: Why would a goat need a name tag at all?
Goats are quite amazing creatures in numerous ways. One way, of course, is their remarkable eating habits. The ultimate omnivores, they are known to chomp on everything even vaguely edible—or inedible, for that matter—from grass to tree bark to toxic plants, including poison oak and knapweed. They even have a documented appetite for litter when left unchaperoned. Indeed, that is the theme of the American folk song “Bill Grogan’s Goat”:
One day that goat felt frisk and fine—
Ate three red shirts right off the line.
While the pandemic-induced lockdown left everyone marooned in their quarters for nigh onto a year, it also presented people with an opportunity to think outside that box. Some took to posting on social media unabashed renditions of songs with altered lyrics articulating the angst of our strange times. Others resurrected the forgotten artist residing within, creating artworks worth preserving. Pet sales soared across the world as people found themselves in urgent need of companionship. But the ones whose need was most dire were the parents with homebound children whom circumstances had compelled to dig deep within their creative selves to hatch novel tasks designed to educate and entertain their young ones.
Here is the tale of one such family, delivered from their domestic entrapment in a most delightful and unexpected way.
In past articles we’ve discussed the history of marking livestock for identification purposes, from branding to ear tags to RFID (radio frequency identification). Many of these methods, while effective, are also often permanent in nature, which may not be desirable. They may even involve minor injury to the animal or damage to the skin or coat. But what if you don’t want the I.D. to be permanent (much less cause any pain to the animal)? That is where Ketchum livestock markers prove their worth!
As sheep (along with dogs) were among the first animals to be domesticated by human beings, it stands to reason that we have collectively accumulated a vast amount of information about raising and caring for these animals. For centuries this knowledge has been added to and passed down orally, from generation to generation. Then, with the advent of the printing press and the scientific method, our knowledge about the raising of sheep was able to be refined and preserved.
Like all ancient crafts, the raising and breeding of sheep is best learned by doing, in a hands-on manner, overseen by an experienced mentor. It does not lend itself well to pure book-learning by itself. And of the many different aspects of raising sheep, surely one of the most fraught and ticklish is the matter of lambing. Lambing, of course, is the act of a ewe (female sheep) giving birth to a baby lamb. A successful lambing season demands deep biological knowledge, familiarity with the personality of the ewe, the patience of a saint, and nerves of steel. Even then, so much can go wrong.
In that event, the sheep farmer—even the most seasoned—may find him/herself at the limit of their knowledge. If a trusted vet is not immediately available to assess the problem, it is up to the sheep farmer to solve it. The books listed below may be of assistance and should be ever-present in the sheep farmer’s barnyard library. Continue reading “5 Essential Books for Lambing Season”