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A Salute to the BWDs

February 1, 2010

What a week this has been! Shearing the ewes on the 23rd, then hustling to be ready for the coming ice storm a few days later, and finally, the surprise snowstorm (as late as the day before, we were supposed to only get 1-2″) that dumped 6+ inches of very wet snow on top of 5/8″ of ice. The weight of the ice was enough to flatten the electronet fences, so the ewes and market lambs have been mixed together and unfenced. They’ve enjoyed themselves immensely, going from the row of newly delivered alfalfa bales, to a single bale in the middle of the pasture, and back to the grass and alfalfa bales at the barn.

Rap relaxing in between chores

I’m not too happy about this, but I’m forced to be patient until we get a thaw, and I can set the electronet fences back up. After that, I can separate the market lambs into their own pasture pen and get the pregnant ewes ready to start lambing in two-and-a-half weeks. In the meantime, the Maremma Big White Dogs (BWDs) have maintained order and taken care of everyone. I had to run to Stillwater this afternoon to pick up a few provisions, so I was later doing chores than I normally do. Rap the Aussie and I buzzed down the hill on the 4-wheeler towards the rows of big round bales of alfalfa. Hmmm… only the goats were there? No sign of any of the 80 or so head of sheep. So, we headed east as dusk started to settle in and rounded the corner to find all the sheep relaxing in the barn with four of the BWDs. How nice 🙂

Once I shook another bale of straw into the barn bedding, Rap and I took off to finish feeding the rest of the critters. We finished with everything and drove towards the road to get the mail, when I heard a single ewe cry, “Baaaahhhh.” I turned towards the round bales, looking for the rebel who was away from all the other girls. The 4-wheeler lights found Sisko, our oldest male BWD, but no sheep. I swung around and then found her–one of the feisty old Hamp ewes, Dionne Warwick, was there by herself, and there was Sisko, about 15 feet away. He had followed her when she left the barn and the other ewes. I shooed her back towards the barn and then told Sisko what a good boy he was as he turned to follow Dionne back to the barn.

I don’t have to worry about the sheep with our Big White Dogs on the job. I bought my first Maremma back in 1997 after I lost two ewe lambs to a dog attack. I researched all the breeds of livestock guardian dogs before selecting the Maremma-Abruzzese. I wanted a breed noted for developing a strong bond with the livestock, not the farm. The Maremma historically have trailed with their sheep up to the Morrone Mountains in the summer and back down to the plains for the winter. So, they bond to the sheep, not the place. On our farm, in the hills of Lincoln County, Oklahoma, they only have to follow the sheep from the round bales by the road back to the barn. But they do it very, very well.

Cleopatra in the Morrone Mountains, Abruzzo, Italy. Sisko came from the same farm as the famous Cleopatra.

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