October 25, 2017
Some people call sheep God’s creatures. Others call them dumb and stupid. I must admit I’ve used the latter words before. But after a recent incident, I’ve decided they’re stupid, but not dumb. My wife, Carla, doesn’t think that makes sense, but it’s all in how you define the words.
If stupid means they run the wrong way when you’re trying to corral them, I’ll give you that. But if you figure out how to eat twice a day when your “master” wants you to eat only once a day, you’re not dumb.
Last fall we had two spring lambs on the place. The ewes went elsewhere to be bred. We decided we could take short vacations. It would be easier for the friend feeding if he only had to come once a day.
So much to the sheep’s dismay, I simply didn’t feed them grain one morning. They were less than thrilled, and I could hear them even in my office. The next day it wasn’t quite as loud, and within a week, they pretty much figured out the new routine.
Carla and I went on a short trip, and everything seemed fine when we got back. A few days later, we hit that very hot week in September. One evening I went out to feed, and the sheep came to the feed bunk, but when I put grain in, they just stared at it.
Now my policy is if a sheep doesn’t act right, you figure out what’s wrong and act immediately. You don’t give it the chance to pull the “woe is me, I’m sick and going to die” routine. The problem was these sheep looked perfectly normal. They held their heads up, eyes were bright — they just weren’t interested in grain. I gave them hay and they nibbled on it, so I scratched my head and left.
The next night went pretty much the same.
By the third night, I decided I was going to clean out their feed trough. Maybe the cats walked through it. I even switched bags of feed — maybe something was wrong with one bag. I gave them grain, and they just nosed through it. I was halfway to the house when they started bah-ah-ing. Oops, I forgot their hay. And you really think they’re dumb?
That went on another day or so, and then they went back to eating grain like nothing ever happened. It was a head-scratcher. Maybe it was the heat.
Then one evening in early October I fed them, and as I glanced at the feed bags sitting nearest their pen on a wooden bench, something looked odd. The bag at the end, a few feet from their pen, looked shriveled up, like it was empty. Wait a minute. I knew I had three full bags left.
I only thought I did. When I looked more closely, I figured out what happened. The suckers grabbed the bag by their teeth and pulled it close enough that they could chew through it. They turned it into a self-feeder — there was a little left in the bag below the hole, but that was it.
“I guess they showed you what they thought of getting fed once a day,” my wife said.
They also taught me some things. One, don’t put a feed bag anywhere near a pen. More importantly, be careful who you call stupid and dumb. They just might get the last “bah-ah.”
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