Raising Finnish Landrace, Cotswold, Border Leicester, and Romeldales, in the Heart of Illinois, as well as working with rescue llamas.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A sheep version of the lick the frozen flagpole dare scene from the movie "A Christmas Story"...

There was a message about Finnsheep intelligence a few weeks ago on the Finnsheep yahoo group,... until a recent morning I was inclined to agree with the writer's assessment of Finns being more intelligent than other breeds of sheep.   Our Finnsheep have consistently shown us they are more physically able than our other breeds from the minute they arrived here. Some of our ewes are downright goat like in their physical abilities and curiosity. The Finns are more active, and physically more able in terms of jumping on top of the round bales(!). Our Finnsheep generally can read human intentions quicker than our other breeds, Shetland excluded. The Shetland are just amazing intuitive hardy creatures. Our Cotswolds and Border Leicesters are so laid back they don’t care about human intentions just grass, and getting a good scratch now and then... ya gotta love that about both breeds!!

Since we all know physical prowess doesn’t equal intelligence the question remains does moxie equal intelligence?? Here was a recent morning’s Finnsheep related escapade here on the farm:

Nora is one of my favorite Finn ewes, she is typically clever, calm, social always seeking a scratch and a treat. She is a great Mama who raised well behaved healthy triplets this year with out even breaking a sweat. She has a nice fleece that she keeps fairly tidy, and all around enjoyable to be around. The other morning my eldest went out to do morning chores, planning on starting as usual with taking feed and minerals to the cows and rams. However, Nora had other plans for him. As he walked by the chicken coop run on his way to the barn he discovered Nora, darling Nora with her TONGUE stuck in the chicken run fence. He quickly got her disentangled and made sure she was uninjured. 

Now I, like you am thinking, 'WHY?!! What on earth could there possibly be in or on that fence that she could possibly need to lick?!'  Chicken with the feathers on can’t taste good to a sheep, not to mention the possibility of getting pecked right on the tongue. The answer, a chicken flock block.  Thank heavens she didn’t reach it! Chicken feed can be deadly to sheep as it contains copper and higher protein level than most sheep feeds.  While it is comical now, it could have had a disastrous ending for Nora.

As a whole sheep get a really bum rap on intelligence that I find rather unfounded. Our sheep are just as intelligent as our cows. I find the difference to be more temperament than anything else. Our steers would follow an empty bucket right to the butcher without ever looking up. Our flock simply wouldn't, they have more of a self preserving awareness than the cows. Perhaps it all boils down to trust, if they know they can trust the shepherd then they relax and let their guard down. We have a commercial ewe, Stomper, who came to us from another flock. Stomper is an amazing mother, throws good lambs, and is the dominant ewe of the flock. Stomper is a bear to work on, she has a reputation for being near to impossible to work on. Trimming hooves is a 3 person job with her because she is 250+lbs and so full of attitude. The running theory here is that she simply had to be proactive in self protection in her prior flock, so she developed an intense self reliance. She is a ewe I do not enjoy working on but we would hate to be without her in the field. What she herself practices personally, she extends to the entire flock during times of percieved need.

 I guess the jury is still out on sheep intelligence here……. I am not sure if she was dared or not by another ewe but I still hear muttering about Nora's tongue being caught in the fence! 

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