On conventional farms today, you rarely see animals being kept together in the same fence and most large operations only have one species of animal altogether! Someone either raises beef, or lamb, or chicken or pork. Since large, crowded monocultures in agriculture have become standard in this country, many people wonder if you can even intermix species anymore! Is it safe? Will they get sick? Will they get along?
We question conventional methods, read from successful agriculture pioneers, then experiment on our farm. We’ve decided it’s healthier for the animals and pasture to graze them together, not to mention it’s just plain easier for us! 🙂
When we picked Pearl up we were advised to keep her in a secure stall for about a week to prevent her from trying to break out. Animals can make a valiant effort in getting away when brought to a new location. In fact, the family we got Pearl from told us how they lost a herd of Dexters went they broke through 5 strands of electric fencing upon unloading them at their farm! Oh, I can’t imagine the blow to the farm or wallet! We gratefully heeded their words of caution. Pearl spent her first week on our farm in the barn in a secure horse stall.
On Saturday it was time to let her out into our fenced barnyard area. She was so happy to be out! She was running, kicking and jumping! The whole week in her stall she had typically been very still and calm, so we were surprised to see her act so frisky in the barnyard! Although she is small for a cow, and just a calf at that, when there is a 400-500 pound beast coming your way, you MOVE! We had wandered out into the barnyard with her to see how she’d like her newfound freedom and within minutes we were ducking back inside the barn for safety! More experienced farm folk would probably have been anticipating her reaction! 😉
She was in no way being aggressive or trying to scare us! She was stretching her legs, getting some needed exercise, and celebrating her freedom!
After she had her fill of running and kicking we allowed our flock of sheep into the barnyard. We weren’t sure what was going to happen and this time we knew enough to stay out of the way! Pearl was not afraid of the sheep at all. She was very curious and it looked as though she was glad for the company. The sheep, on the other hand, were comfortable with the current status of their flock and felt no need to welcome a newcomer.
They kept fleeing from Pearl and she’d respond by slowly trotting after them. The sheep would back themselves into a corner and watch in fear as Pearl slowly inched her way towards them.
She kept trying to approach them and as soon as the sheep considered her too close for comfort they’d make a mad dash to the other side of the barnyard again! We decided to leave them be and allow them to work it out. Like most things, time and patience were needed. The sheep eventually became less fearful and Pearl was able to touch noses with a few of the sheep. Towards the end of the day, Ryan built another hay feeder from a pallet and put it in the lean-to in our barnyard.
And look at that! The cow and sheep were able to put their differences aside and bond over a meal! How civilized!
The temperature dropped Sunday night so we wanted to put the sheep back in the barn to make sure the lambs would be warm enough overnight, but we left Pearl outside. She was not happy to see her flock go! She kept going to the barn door and mooing for them.
Don’t feel bad though! Every morning I walk to the barn and release the sheep into the barnyard and they get a whole new day to socialize!