Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Working Sheep



Now I am not trying to be crass today, but I know that some of you might be thinking of getting into the sheep business, and want to make sure you know what you are getting into.

Today's topic is "Marking" or sometimes called "Working" sheep. When the flocks "lamb", or have their babies, each of the lambs has to be "marked". First step in marking sheep is to put some type of identifying mark on the sheep to show ownership. Sort of like branding cattle, but for sheep what is typically done is you have this tool that is sort of like a big set of pliars. The part that comes together has a large number of closely spaced needles, which form a pattern, like a unique number or shape. You have to hold the lamb down, and then clamp the tool down on the ear. The needles go through the ear, and then leave a scar pattern like a brand in the ear.

OK, that was the easy part. Next up, you have to hold the sheep in a headlock, and then run a metal tube down its throat. The tube has a hand pump, and is tied to a bottle of medicine/poison you carry on your back. You stick the tube down the sheep's throat, and then give him two big squirts of medicine to kill/prevent stomach worms. Not so easy, but it gets worse.

Now, for sheep, the number one problem is usually associated with the sheep's tail. It is always getting tangled up in something, and gets in the way of the sheep effectively (pardon me) pooping. It can create a blockage of poop outside the sheep under the tail. So . . . the tail has to come off. This is done with a sharp knife, and in one fast smooth cut. Then you daub some medicine on the little stump that is left.

Now, finally, most of the males have to be castrated. When lambs are born, half are female and half are male. To continue propagating the flock only one male is needed for every 10 or 20 females. The problem with letting the little male lambs grow up to be Rams is that you really can not eat Ram meat, and the Rams fight. So, you need to castrate most of the males, so they will grow up to be fat juicy docile sheep. When I used to do this, they had a tool to help you do the job. The items to be removed from the sheep are in a little "pouch" First step is to cut the little bottom end off the pouch with a sharp knife. Then, the items to be removed are very slick and slimy, and the goal is to remove them without causing undue pain or stress on the animal. Hence you can not grab in a manner that squeezes them at all. The items to be removed are covered with  a very thin skin like material which is not sensitive. If you can grab that little membrane with the tool, you can pull them right out with minimum discomfort to the lamb. The little tool had some special grippers to let you grab the membrane. Now realize, you were expected to brand, worm, de-tail and castrate a lamb in about two minutes, so time was of the essence.

When I was doing this job, the old timers scoffed at the little tool, saying it took to long and did not work. They would have one guy hold the sheep, and they would cut the bottom of the pouch off with a sharp knife, and then would lean over, grab the items to be removed with their teeth, pull them out, and then spit them in the bucket (for later making into fried Rocky Mountain Oysters). I kid you not, that is the way they did it, and in fact it was quicker than trying to use the little tool. That is the technique being demonstrated in the picture above.

Still want to be in the sheep business?

28 comments:

  1. Good morning.
    what little I do know of sheep, I have seen the bit and spit method done. It seemed so quick and easy, but it is something I don't think I want to try myself.
    Loved the oysters though, but not as much as calf oysters.

    Any progress with Handsome Jack's project.

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  2. *uncrosses legs* Ok, you did warn me. I recognise that.

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  3. it sure worse than sheepshearing!!!!!

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  4. I bet it tastes baaaaaad.

    (sorry... can't resist a good sheep pun, and I made it to Wednesday!)

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  5. Oh my! I had no idea! Those folks must have stomachs of steel!

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  6. This sounds like a ''dirty jobs'' episode to me, just sayin

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  7. Believe I would take another 5 seconds to use the little tool. Don't like them raw, but fried is great!

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  8. I agree Mike Rowe (from Dirty Jobs) might balk at trying this. However I'm sure there are plenty of divorce lawyers out there that might prove quite adept at it.

    John

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  9. Mike Rowe did this exact job.

    More video but the explanation is better.

    Mike Rowe on Lamb Castration and PETA

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  10. Geez and I thought chewing tobacco gave you bad breath! Wonder if there was a good night kiss from the wife after "working sheep" all day.

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  11. I'm baaaaaaaaaaless. Bon apetit!

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  12. So. Let me get this straight: The guys who were castrating the sheep with their teeth were making fun of people who disdained that method. Is that the jist of it?

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  13. I believe you missed the point of this Blog. Learn and have some fun. Lighten up, Azule

    Al

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  14. We used to do the bit and pull method when Uncle was still alive. However, after he died we used the rubber banding method where rubber bands are put around the top of the sack at the belly line and it cut off the blood supply and the sack eventually dropped off. Docking was the same -with the rubber band rather than the knife after Uncle passed away. I still miss my sheep sometimes.

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  15. Azule,
    Yes, the people who used their teeth thought the people who used to tool were sissy's and took too long. I think you have the jist of it.
    PJM

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  16. Chewing tobacco doesn't sound so bad by comparison.

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  17. I said, EW! My husband responded, oh, yeah that's the way to do it.
    I repeat, Ew.

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  18. Did they just use their teeth to pull them out and cut them with the knife or did they actually bite them off? Thanks, Judy

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  19. Ack oh gosh, now that is something that would never go into my mouth, lol.

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  20. Today's topic reminds me of the "Lamb Fries" scene in the 1988movie "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase and Madolyn Smith.

    Chevy's character and his wife move to the fictional town of "Redbud," Vermont where he tries to make it as a country gent. They go to a local diner and he has "lamb fries" which he thinks he likes until he finds out that they are sheep testicles.

    There is a funny moment when the woman in the diner describes how they cut them off.

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  21. My DH and I are currently looking for a place in the country and are researching wool makers: sheep, goats and angora rabbits. I've got a folder of links saved. In my folder is a site that has a listing of sheep that don't require docking:

    http://www.sheep101.info/201/dockcastrate.html

    Still I think I might just stick to the angora rabbits. We're getting our first two later this month.

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  22. Thanks to Anonymous for posting the Mike Rowe link...
    http://www.youtube.com/
    watch?v=r-udsIV4Hmc

    I found the clip to be very informative and entertaining.

    John

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  23. I think that is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard. GROSS!!!!! I can't imagine. I would cry the entire time I was doing it to the poor sheep.

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  24. Ah, talk about having a job that bites!

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  25. we can send men to the moon and have them return...........and this is the best we can do with this process? Send me to the moon!

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  26. That is so disgusting. It makes me want to be a vegetarian or never wear wool again. Well anyone who is daring enough to write about ripping sheep balls off with their teeth is added to my follow list.

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  27. Great descriptions..and I enjoyed the photo too..nothing like telling it the was it was:)

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