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Blowin’ in the Wind

April 29, 2010

If you’re going to live in Oklahoma, you’d either a) better like wind, or b) have a relaxed, zen-like attitude about it. Otherwise, you’ll go nuts. Especially after days like today. I, myself, am both (a) and (b). I really like wind when the temp is above 85 degrees. And when the temp is below 85? Well, I guess it is what it is. I can’t really call it the water I’m swimming in–maybe the atmosphere I’m living in? Wind doesn’t seem to bother the sheep at all. Then again, sheep are incredibly stoic. Windy? They’ve got grass to eat. Hot? They’ll find shade or gather together to shade each other’s heads from the sun, sort of like a woolly rugby scrum. Rain? Snow? They find trees or bunch together, and with the lanolin next to their skin, they never really get soaked ‘to the bone.’

However, it’s our job to help the sheep with shelter, stoic and tough they may be. Shelter is complicated by our practice of rotational, managed grazing–shelter must be portable in this system. I’ll add, must be easily portable, because it takes time to move the electric fence every day, and minimizing the time spent moving shelters, water troughs, and mineral feeders gives us back valuable minutes to spend elsewhere on the farm. Shelter also needs to be, well, cheap! There are lots of really, really good *expensive* shelter solutions out there, portable and otherwise. But really, do you want to spend $10 for a dozen eggs? Because that’s what we’ll end up charging if we go and buy that $2,000 portable chicken coop for sale over by the Perkins Livestock Auction.

I’ve been wanting to lamb on pasture for a few years now, and this year, we were able to do just that because we got our shelter problem solved. With the help of a neighbor and a local high school kid, we were able to weld up portable hoophouses:

From back to front, generations 1, 2, and 3 of our hoophouses on skids

 These are on 2 3/8″ used oilfield pipe skids, with 20-mil thick billboard tarps for covers. For the first one, we used cattle panels ‘hooped’ between the skids to support the tarp. We abandoned that approach for generations 2 and 3 in favor of just welding square tubing into hoops. Tomorrow, I’ll post a more detailed, step-by-step recap of the process in the hopes of letting others learn from our mistakes 🙂

They’ve held up against the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 2009, the few thunderstorms we’ve had this spring, and the near constant sweepin’-down-the-plains Oklahoma wind. Above all, the sheep like ’em and use ’em.

Old Billboards never die, they just become sheep shelters! These two feature a DFW radio station called 'The Eagle.'

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2010 6:25 am

    Came across your site, love the sheep shelter. I’m looking to purchase an old billboard tarp with the print still on it. May I ask where I can purchase this item and excuse my ruddiness in asking but about how much these thins coast?

    Thank you so much for you time in responding and god bless.

    Robert Adamson

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