My Ewes Have Gone Nuts!

Written on 02/01/2021

Okay, so is it just me, or are sheep absolutely crazy about creep feed and ewe nuts? 

When we moved into the house and took over the farm with 25 ewes, the previous owner left us a 25lb bag of “Redmill's Lamb Creep”. She said she used it in a bucket to simply move the sheep from one paddock to another – or to bring them in for foot trimming and dosing. She added that she didn't find that a sheep dog was necessary and, that on those occasions when one was on the property, it totally stressed out the sheep, so she didn't recommend that we get one ourselves for this group of Suffolk ewes.

We took in all the info she was happy to provide. Even after they had moved on, the previous owner was very generous with advice and answers to the odd question from time to time via email. I was grateful, as she had raised these particular sheep and knew their behaviors and quirky traits intimately.

Early on, I found that moving the sheep from a tired, fully grazed pasture to a new one with fresh swards of grass didn't actually require the “bucket”. The sheep were quite keen to run in to the next field over. In fact, they watched me intensely, and if I edged even remotely close to the connecting gate, they came running in a stampede. The prospect of a change of scenery with fresh yummy grass is VERY exciting –  if you’re a sheep.

So, the bucket remained in the barn and the bag of creep was stored in an old, unplugged box freezer, where the resident, annoying rats were unable to chew the bag open.

Soon enough, the day came when we needed to bring the sheep into the yard where our neighbor, Martin, would help me with trimming their hooves and dosing them for liver fluke – a nasty parasite that can really bring down a ewe if not prevented or treated early.

So, I pulled back the string to open the top of the lamb creep bag and scooped 3-4 cups into a bucket. It was an interesting mix of various ingredients. Coated nuts, soy hulls, oats flakes and other familiar bits. It looked similar to a human granola mix that had then been baked and severely tossed with molasses. It wasn't sticky. It was dry enough to scoop without residue, but it was definitely fragrant from the molasses. I didn't think much more about it, I just grabbed my gloves and the bucket, and Martin and I walked around to the pasture where the sheep were relaxing in the sun.

"C'mon girls" Martin shouted out to them. He raised the bucket and shook it sharply up and down so that the nuts inside could be heard.

That was it. Pure pandemonium. The ladies came RUNNING. I couldn't believe it. With that bucket in his hand, they would have followed him to the moon! 

From that point forward, we joked that the nuts were "sheep cocaine" – powerful enough to make an entire flock run like mad to wherever the bucket was headed. Even today, five years later with the same flock, it still amazes me the power a simple bucket of grain has over the ewes. I have been trampled, tripped, and pushed as a result. I know better now – walking as far out in front of them as possible, with the bucket held high on my shoulder, careful not to let the ewes get tangled in my legs. 

When it comes to moving the sheep, who needs a dog!? Very nutty. Literally.