Our New Trim Chute

December 24, 2018

So the farm has been wearing us down. We originally wanted no big equipment on the farm. We never wanted to take out any loans to run it, and we never have. We did cave a few years back and buy a "tractor". It's actually a back-hoe/loader, but it does what we need it to do: dig big holes and move hay bales. We used to roll round bales by hand, with rugby tackle techniques. I can't even believe we did that.




Every year in April, we have to give all our sheep vaccines. No matter how much we love them, they do not stand still and just let us poke them with needles. They also need their hooves trimmed, and again, they do not just lift up their legs and let us trim them. They are sheep - not horses. 


So I reached out to my sheepy network and asked "How the heck do you guys do this?".  Larry and I have both hurt our backs. OK, his was caused by Ju Jitsu, but it sure makes farm chores hard when your back hurts.  My doc specifically told me to stop lifting and twisting at the same time. That means no more slinging small hay bales. That means tackling my sheep isn't the best option for me, and frankly, I haven't enjoyed doing it to them. 


My sheepy network gave me some ideas for chutes I can use to capture the sheep. I found one that captures them, and turns them on their side, giving us access to their hooves without us having to tackle them, hold them down or anything. It also allows BOTH of us to trim, getting hoof trimming done in less time. I can easily check their eyes for their Famacha score. I can give vaccines. I can check udders for signs of mastitis. 


The videos on how this works are shown here:


One thing I know about sheep - is that if they are trained to do something, they make it look easy.  I see it at herding dog trials, the sheep are so accustomed to what they are supposed to do, they do it right.  The same is true of these videos. These sheep are accustomed to chutes and likely used to being in this one.  Our sheep were not. We have some work to do. They did not want to go in. Once they were in, they did not sit still for the most part. BUT, we did get all their hooves trimmed and get them all dewormed with less effort than it would have taken by hand. AND we got them all done. Hoof trimming is a job that in the past, we would quit when we got tired. And we never liked holding down a pregnant ewe to do this, but all our ladies need to have their nails done. So Spa Day on the farm just got a bit easier!

This is Hattie, one of our nicest sheepies. One of the struggles we had with the chute was how our sheep fit into it. I had to take off one of the inner pads just so they could get inside. Some of my gals were too wide. The head gate was also a challenge, as they were too tall and had to put their heads down to go in. Once caught in the head gate, we had to squeeze the panels together, which really made me feel like I was squishing them. But when we turned them, I noticed, they all brought their front legs forward through the gate, instead of down. This actually gave me space to trim their front hooves, while Larry worked on the rear hooves. And honestly, they did not just lay their still, and calm. We got kicked a lot.


But, we would have gotten kicked just as much by laying them on the ground and holding them down. Probably more, actually. 



 Turning them up allowed us to trim hooves without bending over much, which is pretty tough on our lower backs. It was easier to get a good trim on their hooves. And when they pooped,  gravity took it away from us, instead of getting pooped on! That's an added bonus, too. 


So the angle of the panels is not quite right for our sheep. One of our pregnant girls, and maybe I didn't squeeze her in because she was pregnant, ended up sliding out before we were done. We released her out the top, as soon as Larry let go of her rear legs, she just kind of slid out. We were able to get her up and out from there, so she was not in any danger, but it was a bit weird.


So we have some training to do - we need to get the girls more used to walking through this chute.


So I need to get some tools out to adjust the panels and the head gate spacing. We'll get this organized. But what I know is that for the first time since we only owned 2 ewes - we trimmed ALL HOOVES in ONE DAY! Mission accomplished!


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