Of all the events in the shepherding calendar, this is the one I dislike the most.
It's weaning time.
I know it has to be done. The lambs need to get ready to go to new homes by themselves. Their dams' bodies need a break from the demands of producing milk, so they can rebuild to start the whole task over in the fall. The dams' udders, especially, need to escape the pummeling they receive on a daily basis, before permanent damage is done.
I know all the reasons. But I still hate it.
We tried a new system this year. Starting Saturday, we separated the ewes and lambs for a few hours. The lambs and their mothers only had a fenceline in between, so they could see and talk to each other, but no nursing for eight hours. We let them back together for the night.
On Sunday, the time increased to ten hours; on Monday, twelve.
Yesterday was the break. As the dams bellowed in desperation from their pasture, we ran twelve fat woolly little lamb butts up into a completely separated paddock. They spent the day calling to each other, back and forth, moms and babies, question and answer.
Did I mention how much I hate weaning time?
Unfortunately, they also spent most of the night calling to each other. This is where the apologies to the neighbors comes in. I feel as if I need to send them fruit baskets or something.
We checked on the ewes' udders this morning. Despite the decibel level, this system seems to have worked well in terms of getting the message to the milk production system that its services are no longer needed. Very few ewes seem to be having an issue, and hopefully we will get them dried up soon.
The lambs also seem to be doing OK, as you can see from my super-stealth spy picture taken from behind the shed, to make sure they didn't spot me and start up again.
The heat today (almost 100 degrees F in this neck of the woods) seemed to sap their energy to protest today. They are finally quiet, for the moment at least.