Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Speaking Leadersheep

Just like with fossil fuel lawnmowers; if you're using livestock to mow grass; you need to keep careful track of how much fuel they have available.  An empty tank on your gas mower - means running out of fuel in the middle of a job, possibly far from more gas.  An empty tank on your grass-fueled mower - means sick sheep, low growth rates, and possibly dead animals in the winter.  So - we keep careful track of how much graze is left in the paddock.

Right now our sheep are mowing under our main nut producing chestnuts- both to eat the burdock down to zero again, depleting the root systems so we can hope to prevent seed formation; and also to eat volunteer chestnut seedlings, which will confuse our data- and which the horses will not touch.

The sheep also avidly eat chestnut leaves they can reach; which we appreciate- it makes it possible to move in the grove.  And they strip invasive tartarian honeysuckle completely, and most other invasive woody plants also.  They don't touch mature chestnut bark.

The Leadersheep genes in our flock means - the sheep tell us the state of the graze; whenever we walk by.  Literally.  The first picture below is how they greeted me just now, as I came to check.  Supreme indifference.  Meaning; graze is ok at the moment.  But- the two top ewes both spoke to me; both Minnie and Bridget gave me one "baaa" each, as they lay down.  On a new paddock, they will not speak.  Two leaders speaking means, specifically - "It's ok today; but we can see it's going to run out before long."  Meaning; the paddock will need to be moved tomorrow; or the next day for sure.

And in the picture below - you can see the flock simply expressing interest in me.  They got up and came to see what was going on; when I stayed at the fence, came a bit closer, and started taking pictures.  A little more baaaing, but not much; and very casual behavior.  They understand the entire process of moving the paddock- and are interested.

In the normal course of things, when I repeat my inspection tomorrow, instead of just Minnie and Bridget baaaing, there will be 5 adult sheep speaking as soon as they see me: which translates as "We'd appreciate a new paddock today; but it's not exactly urgent."  If they're in the same paddock on the next day - the entire flock will speak - loudly- as soon as they see a human.

It's very, very useful.

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