Maybe I don’t get EU support to buy animals, but I sure got one from US. There is Heifer project in Alūksne region, too, and local manager was kind to help me. She bought me some sheep, gave me a ram from another tribe and even organized transportation to my farm.
Along with animals I was given some electric fence. It gave me some trouble, though. I touched the wire and got hit with 8000 V electroshock, while being barefeet on the ground. I was too careless because my previous experience with electric fences were not so dramatic. There was a problem with a dog, too. Since I have bad sight I was hit a few times more. I wasted quite a lot of time with this fence. I could cut grass or other natural jobs instead. As soon as I got over my fear, that sheep will escape somwhere, my father removed the fence. It also appeared that sheep don’t want to cross the fence even if it is off. They are quite afraid to get tangled in a rope and prior experience with electric fence also does the job. So we just used polypropilen ropes around our gardens, not to let the sheep in. In most cases it worked.
It is a large stereotype, that if you have sheep, they will eat all grass away. In reality sheep prefer leaves of the trees and they eat only very small fresh grass and preferably ground-elder and clover. So I gave them aspen, that scientists say has a lot of microelements, and willow – natural antibiotic (aspirin) against worms. I have 13 sheep at the moment including lambs and ram and it takes all my time to cut branches for them, they can’t reach too high to the trees themselves. I don’t know how big farmers manage all food for their animals. I guess they just use injections instead of willow and fodder as extra food, but I don’t know where to get fodder without 10% of GMO soya or corn in it. I have to grow crops myself, but I am far from it now.
In order not to cut branches, I invented a simple branch bender tool out of log, electric fence isolator and used water-filter rope. It helps me bend down the branches, so that sheep could have some more fresh leaves directly from the tree. Sometimes when I feel lazy I just bend and hold the branch with my hand and watch animals run to me and eat.
I am vegetarian so I don’t intend to slaughter my sheep. I just want to get some wool and then to process it myself and do craftworks with it. Meat would give me some nice money however, but I hate the dirty job. Especially I don’t want to cut balls of the male lambs. After some time I will get a lot of rams then and they will do a lot of fighting for women. I wonder how is it going to be then. I’d like to separate them somehow, but it’ll be extra work then. I also would like to prevent relatives to have offsprings to have smarter and less sick animals in future. However having many rams will give me opportunity to chose the one with the best wool and health. It is possible to milk sheep and make cheese but I am not trying it yet.
One more thing to mention, that sheep trend to have foot illnesses. As soon as conditions get wet some sheep with small immunity start to limp. One july night I let them stay without roof outside under the rain and already next morning I got a serie of limpers.
There is of course uncertainity with nails. If they shoud be cut or not. Some people advice me to cut, some say they never cut nails of their sheep. Who knows, maybe if I just let them run over the country road for some time, it might simulate mountains – natural environment of the sheep – then nails will be naturally removed against stones and sand.
Heifer project has conditions of course. I must give same number of offspring sheep to some other family or if there is no offspring or no opportunity to give sheep away, then they must stay alive for two years. In case animal dies, I need some document from the vet, then I don’t have to pay back.
Along with sheep I could have some goats, but I already have more animals than I can sustain without hay making machines and transportation. Moreover, I want to have two cows and two horses, but that would be it with the haylands I own.
One has to protect his garden if he has animals, especially sheep. They usually need 3 lines of electric fence, you have to trim grass below it once a week or two and check if it is alright. Rams and lambs are most likely to cross it. Everyone must have shaven heads. Sheep are also nice high and long jumpers, so if you do not choose electric fence, make sure you have high and strong fence or low double fence with tight space between. If they get into your garden, they sweep everything except for pumpkins, cucumbers and other vegetables of that kind. However they would eat cucumber fruits. Pumpkin you can really grow unprotected. Leaves they do not eat and fruit is just too big. However it might depend on the breed of the sheep, what they eat. I have some crossbreed of Latvian darkhead, German blackhead and other breeds I cannot identify.