Friday 25 November 2011

Some winter pictures around the ranch.

That white orb is not a sign of paranormal activity,
it is just the weak sun trying to break through the clouds to brighten my day.
 I am fully into the winter feeding routine.
Each day we unroll hay bales over the pasture to give the ewes ample space to be able to eat.
By unrolling the bales like this,
rather than feeding them out of bales feeder's,
is to help spread the manure and wastage from the bales over the land.
Next year, we want to rejuvenate this pasture and by using it as a winter feeding  place now,  we can bring some needed nutrients back to the soil in this way with very little effort.

The amount of wastage we have is actually really low.
If we do not overfeed the sheep, they will stand and eat the hay rather than use it as a warm bed. We also unroll straw for the ewes to be able to bed down in.

Every winter we have a family of Prairie Chickens (grouse) living in our yard.
They  wonder around the place as though they are free range domestic chickens...
The cats and dogs treat them just like they would our own chickens.
 Our own chickens are now wintering in Arizona...
 (a warm, insulated chicken coop!)

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Research shows guard dogs relax sheep

Research shows guard dogs relax sheep
Capital Press

POCATELLO, Idaho -- Sheep tend to travel greater distances in the presence of a guard dog, likely because they're less concerned about predators, according to new research led by Idaho State University.
Bryson Webber, a graduate student in ISU's Geographic Information Science department who analyzed the data, said the study affirms the importance of guard dogs because stressed sheep tend to gain less weight.
Previous sheep dog studies have focused on mortality linked to predation; Webber is unaware of any other studies done about how dogs affect sheep behavior.
"We don't always have to remove predators," Webber said. "With this, hopefully we can show that the lifestyle guardian dogs simply being present improves the health of these animals. That equates to larger income for the ranchers."
The data was collected during a 16-day period in the spring of 2010. Oregon State University supplied GPS collars to record the elevation, location and velocity of the sheep every second. Webber plotted the data with mapping software to depict movement. Students with the ISU GIS club volunteered to observe the behavior of the sheep.
The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois provided the livestock and the four expansive pastures utilized for the study.
The study tracked herds of sheep accustomed to predators. Half of the sheep were left alone and half were guarded. The guarded flocks were switched, and the process was repeated. Though the guarded flocks were more at ease to travel farther, Webber noticed no difference in speed.
The study's supervisor, ISU GIS Center director Keith Weber, said future research at the university will likely focus on analyzing cortisone levels and fecal matter to determine stress in sheep.
"The trend seems to be to move toward (guard dogs) now, especially as people are moving up against wolves that are moving in," Weber said.
Margaret Soulen Hinson, president of the American Sheep Industry Association, started increasing her use of guard dogs in 1996, when wolves began posing a threat to her animals. She now uses four dogs per band.
"In situations where you have lone wolves, the guard dogs can be pretty darned effective. A pack, they'll take out your guard dogs," she said.
Even with guard dogs, she's lost as many as 330 sheep to wolves in a single year.
"One of the ways they're the most effective is they truly alert the herders that wolves are in the area," Soulen Hinson said.
Webber hopes to submit a paper for peer review by the end of December. Suzanne Stone, wolf expert for the Northwest with Defenders of Wildlife, has requested a copy of the paper upon its release.
"We do a lot of work with the ranching community using nonlethal deterrents, including the use of guard dogs," Stone said.
Stone advised ranchers to use the best nonlethal predator control for a given situation, noting guard dogs can actually draw wolves to sheep during the spring when they're protecting their pups.
 Now, I know that working stock with sheepdog's also has a calming effect on the stock, sheep do not get into a blind panic if they are approached by strange dogs as they are used to been worked by dogs.
That sheep feel more confident with trusty guardian dogs around is also clear.
This research just confirms this.

Monday 21 November 2011

Some interesting reading..

With winter set in, the long evenings do make ideal time to do some extra reading.
Here are a couple of links to some thought provoking pieces all to do with large predators.

I am always looking for more information, how we can find ways to be able to ranch together with our wild neighbours. I do believe that large predators  play an essential role in our ecosystems and despair at how easy governments can forget this!

George Wuerthner has a very outspoken view on the environment, ranching and wildlife.  He has traveled extensively in the USA, is a professional photographer and has published numerous books.
As an ecologist he has written some very interesting and thought provoking articles.

Here are two of his articles, the first one is about why he feels wolf hunts are morally corrupt and the second is about the effects of cougar hunts in Oregon.


And, of course there is nothing like a cartoon to put it all into perspective:

Thursday 17 November 2011

Bull fights

Every now and again the bulls feel the need to find out who is the upper boss,
the most powerful and strongest bull.
These fights are  measures of pure, raw physical power.
The power that these animals have is awe inspiring.

The push, shove, lean, turn, slam, head butt and sniff each others balls,
all to figure out who is the top bull in the pasture. 

These fights are not really lethal to the bulls,
of course they could break their necks or a leg,
however it is more a measure of strength and staying power.

These altercations are definitely lethal to fences.
These bulls don't  care about anything while engaged with each other.
The hay feeders go flying, the fences take hits,the water troughs get mashed, the sheep if they get underfoot get run over.
Even the sarplaninac dogs try to stop the ruckus by getting in the way, barking and even biting in the legs of the bulls.
(I have a heart attack and try to remove the dogs out of the pasture..)
Nothing distracts the bulls.
They only have attention for each other.

Finally, one gives up,
or gets tired and runs off.
The winner chases the other  away and with that all is decided and settled.

 Soon all is forgotten and they are once again BFF.
The peace has returned ( and the snow) and all stand eating quietly together at the hay feeder.


Tuesday 15 November 2011

A wicked little winter storm.

A nasty little storm  (and more on the way) shattered our blissfully long fall.
I did a round amoungst all the animals to see what they thought of this weather change?
I started off  a the local sheep gathering,
they assured me all was well.
  This snow indicates  the start of the feeding season and they would not have to go "out there" to find their own food.
It would now be served to them!

The cows shared the opinion of the sheep,
 and had a somewhat more animated  response
they are always happy to see the tractor:

I, wonder what this winter will bring?
(Other than hay bales to the stock...)

Sunday 13 November 2011

Love sick

This is the face of a love sick puppy!
 Vuk has spent every moment of the last few days at Snowys side.
He is NEVER further away that a few meters.
He follows her around everywhere.
When she sits, he sits,
when she goes for a stroll, he goes for a stroll,
when she drinks, he drinks
when she eats,
he does not.
He is love sick.

So, if all is well these two  should have a litter of pups around the 7th of January.

Thursday 10 November 2011

I suppose..

that when you live in Alberta,
and it is almost half way through November,
you can expect this...

Saturday 5 November 2011

Bovine week

This week has been a primarily bovine week.
Tuesday we gathered the cows off the hills to the corral.
Wednesday we sorted cows and calves and had them all pregnancy  tested.
Thursday we began hauling them home,
Thursday night we took in a quick Dr Hook (he is really old...74!) concert

and this is more recent:

Friday hauled the last cows home.
In between all of this we rented a bale mover and Eric is moving lots and lots of bales so that we can haul them home this winter.
Snowy watches as the cows arrive home and onto a new winter feeding pasture.
The dogs always have to get used to the cows being back home after the summer away on pasture!

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