The sheer length and density of grass on the property is a long-term boon and a short term struggle. Capital "S" shepherding, the style I've been using and telling you about for the last 3 years is just not what's needed or even possible right now. I'm trying out the idea of thinking of this as a time of small "s" shepherding--all of the many things I need to do to ensure the health of the animals, whether or not I move them any distance on a given day. I have to admit I miss the big Shepherding days and the hours spent wandering with the flock. I know they'll be back again eventually, but in the meantime, the long grass challenge holds sway.
Last Wednesday we all took advantage of the flock position, the prevailing winds and the willingness of the lead sheep to travel downhill through (you guessed it!) long grass into Old Cabin, a paddock I haven't been able to access till now. The only other way into it is via the Lucerne Paddock, which is off-limits to sheep and dogs because of the hazards posed by dense speargrass--seeds get into the wool, feet, eyes, ears, noses, socks...
It was a real windfall to get the flock down the hill and into Old Cabin, which is chock full of grass: lots of diversity, much of it now gone to seed, but almost no annual grasses to cause problems. There's a lovely soak running through it, and the sheep wander along the green grass in the soak between forays into the drier tussocky grass on either side. Today, they were "camped" at the upwind end of the soak, sheltered from the chilly, biting southerly gale and enjoying the comfort of soft green grass under their bellies.
Next up in the schedule--lambing is due to start mid-March. The first of March I'll jet the flock again for flystrike prevention, then they will go into the Grass Gully, which is possibly my best lambing paddock, in terms of shelter and sight lines. By sight lines I mean I can see the sheep from a distance, so I don't need to disturb them unless an intervention is really needed, and also, the sheep can see all around them, which makes them less anxious. I haven't lambed for 3 years, so this will be a completely different experience, now that the flock and I have a strong relationship. I'll leave all the sheep together for lambing, so they can support each other: protection from predators (eagles, ravens, quolls and devils) and also babysitting of the lambs by their older siblings.
There will be lots of small "s" shepherding during the next 2 months, many lovely times, and some heartbreaking moments.