Friday, February 28, 2014

Bad beavers!

This post has been brewing for awhile – since the last sheep shuffle. Nightcap went home, the girls moved into the fold (with daily pasture visits for exercise, fresh air and forage), and the "woolgrowers" – Bramble, Bart, Bing and Bittersweet – went to the Ram-ada Inn lot. They went on a hay strike. I was getting concerned, because sheep need to keep their guts working to stay healthy. Then I noticed something. There are three big Douglasfirs in their lot, which you have seen as backdrops to photos of the breeding group.
Nightcap next to one of the big firs

All three of them – plus a slightly smaller one just outside the panel fence – were being gnawed on. Alarmed, I refilled the empty salt/mineral/kelp feeder; my poor woolgrowers must be desperately deficient in something as I have never had this problem before. They ate up the kelp and minerals, but continued to mostly ignore their hay and eat bark.

They had reached through and eaten a hole clear down to the sapwood on the tree outside their lot:

I found an old piece of chicken wire to wrap around one of the trees, and yesterday I picked up some deer-repellent spray to use on the others. If that doesn't work, we will figure out physical barriers for the rest of the trees.

Right now I am pretty exasperated with the wooly rodents. Even the "meadow rats" have never damaged mature trees! Anyone need some fiber pets?

That's it for today from . . .

7 comments:

Susan said...

Same problem here, Michelle. They girdled three birch trees (their shade - bad sheep) and I ended up trimming evergreen branches and tossing them in their paddock to keep them busy. I am going to have to put chicken wire around the two remaining fir trees just to keep them from killing everything! When is spring again????

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Every year I throw discarded Christmas trees to my sheep, they love the "fresh" taste of green. If I can't get Christmas trees, I go to the mountain and cut cedar trees. Anything fresh beats man made or old, even when they have minerals and salt.

Michelle said...

The sheep have eaten tender fir branches and baby trees before, but I've never seen them gnaw on inches-thick mature bark before! And the other two groups of sheep that occupied this lot didn't chew bark, just the woolgrowers. Interesting….

Laura said...

My sheep girdled 7 or 8 smaller trees in their sacrifice lot. I know that the needles contain vitamin C; maybe the bark/sap has some other nutrient. Chicken wire should work - that's what they use in Reno to protect the cottonwoods along the Truckee River from real beavers!

Debbie said...

I googled sheep eating tree bark and there are many links. One suggested hardware cloth over chicken wire to put around the trunk of the trees. Another blog referred to to the rams eating the bark as kids gone wild in the candy store.....
Your tiny spindle looks so cute!
Have a good weekend.

Tammy said...

It's the same here but I think it's boredom and the need for something 'fresh' in their diet. Mine have plenty of hay and grain once a day and are on a smaller sacrifice lot. They've damaged cedars and poplars so far. This is Blue's old lot so the first time the main flock has pastured it in the winter. We just need Spring....

Tammy

fiberjoy said...

The rising sap smells too delicious to ignore after a long winter.