Jugs – they’re not just for Soay lambing any more

Veteran readers of this blog know what firm believers we are in using jugs to house our Soay ewes with their newborn lambs. The first couple of years we made jugs from our Shaul panels and that was nice, but the lambs sometimes crawled through and wandered off. So Steve and Shawn designed wood-sided jugs from old pieces of plywood and whatever other cheap wood they could find. Every year at lambing time we are reminded of how indispensable the jugs are for giving each ewe time to bond with her lamb(s), allowing us to work the lambs peacefully, and safeguarding unusually small lambs for a few extra days until they are ready to compete in the nursery and the playyard.

What we didn’t know was that jugs come in really handy when it’s time for the vet inspections necessary in order for Soay sheep to travel across state lines or the US-Canada border.  Let me explain.

This morning Dr. Rebecca was scheduled to inspect a whole lot of sheep headed north, south and east from here over the next month (so far, not west, that would be Japan).  In preparation, we had marked all the sheep with color-coded electrical tape on their horns – a different set of colors for each customer.  At the last minute, we decided to try putting each group of ewes (the rams were still down in the west end) in a jug. We’re pretty fussy about making sure the right sheep go to the right customer!

Ewes about to go for a trip with Ron

Ewes about to go on a trip with Ron

Ewes heading north to Washington

Ewes heading north to Washington

You might think the ewes would get uncomfortable sharing such close quarters, but not our girls. As soon as we put a little hay in the jug feeders, away they went!

Chowing down before heading south to a new home

Chowing down before heading south to a new home

Oh, is it my turn to be inspected?

Can't you see I'm busy eating?

And my favorite photo, for anyone who thinks Soay sheep are too skittish. How’s this for a trusting look?

Oh, is it my turn to be inspected?  Okay!

Oh, is it my turn to be inspected? Okay!

A note about these feeders: we used to feed our jugged ewes out of milk crates on the floor, but of course they kicked over the crates. We tried hanging feeders but the ewes managed to knock them over, too. Our jugs are 3.5′ x 5′ and there just isn’t room for a full-depth hanging feeder. What we came up with is what you see here, an angled wooden feeder securely anchored to the wall, with the front face made from scraps of 4×4 wire panel. They are sized to hold a flake of hay horizontally and we can fill them just by walking alongside the jugs; we don’t even need to disturb the ewes with their newborns.

For now …