Lots, actually, when it comes to livestock. Anecdotally, cows with names give more and better milk, and in my experience, named sheep generally grow more and better wool than the flock average. But of course there's even more when social structure comes into play.
I'm finally back from my self-imposed "summer" break, which has extended well into northern hemisphere summer. It turned out to be an even better idea than I thought, giving me much-needed time to reflect on the business and my life in general. Time away from writing affirmed my love of the work I do. It also made me realise I'd said most, if not all, of the things I wanted to say. No wonder I was feeling pressure to write regular Yarns from the Farm! Only recently has the desire to write something about sheep re-emerged. So the new approach for Yarns and Shepherding will be to write only when I'm inspired, possibly months apart.
I have to admit that I haven't missed the social media side of the business even a tiny bit. Although I love seeing what other people are doing, feeling like I needed to respond to other people's posts had become a chore that munched up an hour or more of my day, usually in the evening when my brain really just need to rest. Facebook and Twitter have never done much for me, so I'm planning to delete both of those accounts. I'll keep Instagram going, but will only post there when I just can't resist sharing something about the farm. Sally and I have decided to use the Instagram account whitegumfieldnotes for news about yarn and patterns, so if that's your passion I encourage you to follow Sally there.
Back to the naming of animals. Most of you will remember that there are lots of WGW sheep with names. Any bottle lamb gets a name. And any sheep that distinguishes itself through interesting behaviour or medical treatment can also end up with a moniker. Most of my named sheep, though, are Vicki's boyfriends. Vicki is a flirt--no other way to describe it. All of her best friends, as far as I can tell, are boys. They hang around Vicki like love-lorn laddies, and as Vicki (a bottle lamb) hangs around me ALL the time, the laddies have befriended me.
All up, I have 26 named sheep. About 3 weeks ago, they were shorn as a group, along with the 25 pregnant ewes who will be lambing this spring. As a result, the main flock is bereft of named sheep, for the first time since I started shepherding. Moving the shorn sheep about, in and out of the shed dodging winter weather until their coats grow back a bit, is a piece of cake--with all of my pets and specials willing to follow me anywhere, I've seldom needed a dog.
The main flock, though, is a whole different story. Without the pull of the named sheep back to me, they showed their heels and took off at a gallop the first time I went to shepherd them. Happily, they chose the direction I wanted them to go, but honestly, they were out of sight within a minute, and when I caught up with them I only just glimpsed them at a distance, in more or less the right spot, so Pearl and I left them to their own devices.
I guess I knew the named sheep were important in making shepherding easier, but I didn't know they were pivotal! Once the main flock is shorn, in early September, I'll repatriate the named sheep, except for the (hopefully) pregnant girls: Clara, Vicki and Georgie. It'll be fun to be back to normal shepherding again.