Dandelion blossoms fill the field across the road, leaving yellow faces on our Romney and Gotland sheep. In the early spring, we use this field to reintroduce the sheep to grazing after the long winter of eating hay. It takes about two weeks of going back and forth from the barn to the field, eating the lush grass a little at a time while still on hay, until their rumen has adjusted to the spring feed. Adding nux vomica, a homeopathy remedy, to their water also helps their digestive tract make the adjustment in feed.
The field provides a “clean” pasture for turning young lambs out with their mums, clean from parasites that live on the grass blades. The neighbor farmer hays the field in the late summer, providing his cows with winter feed, and allowing the hot summer sun to burn off the parasite larvae on the short nubs left behind. I also add garlic juice to their diet in the spring to boost their immune system and cleanse their rumen.
We start the day off with hay, waiting until the morning dew has dried off before turning the ewes out on pasture. The moisture on the grass blades assist the parasite larvae in moving higher on the blade, increasing the risk of infection in the sheep. Waiting until the grass is dry, reduces the infection rate. We turn the sheep out in the cool of the afternoon so they can graze among the dandelions until early evening. The sheep quickly learn the routine and by 3:00 in the afternoon, they have lined up by the gate, calling for me to come and walk them to out pasture.