so.. umm… this is my life.
My hands are strong, callused, and rough to say the least. I’m not ashamed of them. Their strength allows me to do many things that many women can’t or won’t do. My hands have pulled unborn lambs/goats/calves from the womb into the world. They have moved countless hay bales. Carried thousands of joints of hand line. Pounded posts into the hard earth and completed countless other tasks. Hands are amazing to say the least. Think about all the things you can’t do without your hands… yeah the list is practically endless.
Here is the catch 22 for women in agriculture…
This is no joke. At least half of the things that I do while working on the farm or ranch involve getting dirty. I don’t shy away from getting dirty. Though there are times that I really want to have pretty nails like those awesome ones on Pinterest. Yes there is yet another unattainable standard for women. Its unfortunate. You can’t have beautiful perfectly polished nails if your hands are constantly dirty. In all seriousness perk/problem it really just depends on the day, where I’m going, and what I’m doing.
Whats a granny ewe you ask? Did you like how I tossed ewe and you in the same sentence…. bet that was a little confusing for a minute. Anyways a granny as we call them are ewe’s that may or may not have lambed that decides to claim or STEAL someone else’s lamb(s). Nearly every rancher has a love/hate relationship with the granny. They are so darn convenient when you have a bum lamb… but you hate when they take others lambs without being promoted to momma status. Most of the flocks at the university have been around a while and all of the grannies in each have been identified.
We recently acquired thirty new crossbreed ewes for a research project starting this fall. My boss being the economical man that he is wouldn’t let them sit idle and burn hay for nine months before the project started… so we bred the ewes for replacement lambs. Now I liked this idea! We get replacements, the ewes produce a few others to sell, and we get the chance to find out what kind of mothers they are before we implant Zillion dollar clones into them. (zillion is an exaggeration).
Fast forward to five months or so later and we are discovering exactly what kind of mommas we have on our hands. Many of the ewes are great they follow you in the barn happily, are attentive mothers, and only one has come up with a bad bag. (meaning she has no milk) Until last night, when I got in a no joke “fight” with a ewe that had already lambed because she stole another ewes lamb. She tried to eat me when I picked the little guy up. I swatted at her, this typically will deter most from attempting push their way back into the equation. In her case it seemed to fuel her need to get the lamb back. We shared words… her in the form of blaa’s and grunts.. I in the form of curse words. Until I could escape the pen with the rightful mother and both of her lambs. Foolishly I thought that the worst of it was over….
Once in the barn with the new mother and her lambs in their own private pen I discovered the worst. Since the granny had claimed and fed the lamb it smelled like her and the “real” mom was rejecting her lamb. When I say rejecting I mean she was stomping her lamb into the ground and pushing it away from its sibling. In a situation like this there are a few things you can do. 1) take the rejected lamb away and let it be a bummer 2) attempt to trick the mom into thinking she just gave birth to a new lamb or 3) drag the granny inside and make her take care of the rejected lamb. I chose to go with option number two. I placed the mothers head into the head stall so that she couldn’t get to the lamb and then proceeded to rub it against its sibling and rub it with after birth. Once momma was released she licked down the lamb and ate the placenta off of it. (yes sheep started the trend long before Kim K) She let the lamb nurse and I went home.
This morning when I arrived at the barn the mom had decided to reject the lamb again. Why is beyond me because she was pretty lovey dovey with it before I left the night before. It’s one of the most frustrating/ hard to understand things when a mother does this. None of us like to take care of bummer lambs; when you have 450+ sheep and goats to take care of its difficult to justify having a bum lamb to add to the list. Dave decided that we should see if the granny ewe would take the lamb back. She only had one lamb to begin with and was more than capable of feeding two lambs. When we brought her into the barn she instantly pushed her way to the abandoned newborn. She now is the happy mother of not one but two lambs.
Whats the moral of the story? Its that granny sheep are a giant pain in my butt… I personally dislike them. I appreciate that she stepped up to take care of the lamb. But we wouldn’t need her to if she would have just mined her own business to begin with!
Most people hate giving up their night to go to work, I however love it. But I do have my dream college job… I won’t be doing it forever. To me there has always been something so incredibly tranquil about being in a barn at night with the animals, especially when their are babies involved! I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on what exactly makes it so great. It’s hard to describe the peacefulness that I find when I go in to feed and check on the mama’s. Maybe its the way my coffee tastes in the cool night or the way that the mama’s snuggle up with their lambs. It could be the smell of milk replacer and the way that the bummed lambs slurp it all down. I think its all of these things and a little something extra that you can’t describe. Whatever that special something is this picture captures all of it perfectly. This little guy, only a few hours old, lounges under the feed bucket while his mamma happily munches on her feed. The barn was quiet and the moment was just to perfect. A midst all the craziness that is lambing season there are a few perfect moments like this one that remind me why I love the chaos.
Well ladies and gentlemen it has begun, Lambing season, my most loved/hated part of the year. One of the Universities newly purchased Merino ewes gave birth yesterday morning (I know I’m a day late and a dollar short) outside in our balmy 17 degree weather. The lambs weren’t outside long enough to dry off and quickly adjusted to life with a heat lamp.Being born at Utah State University Sheep and Goat Unit has its perks, like the Aggie Blue coats that keep them warm!
How many girls do you know that can pack two 50 lb bags of grain? Well I can 🙂 I’m quite proud of the fact that I can lift and or drag just about anything within reason. Ive been told quite frequently that women don’t belong working in agriculture, especially in jobs that require hard manual labor. This notion is completely absurd to me… its what I grew up doing and its what makes me happy. Working with animals and knowing that I can do just about anything that the guys can do makes me feel empowered.
Stomping wool, the old fashion way. In a gunny sack at the 4-L Packas Farm. (AKA my grandparents house) May 2013
To much pressure is put on young women these days to be dainty, super feminine, and look like the girl on the cover of vogue. For example the “thigh gap”. What the hell is up with all this “thigh gap” garbage? I don’t want a thigh gap… ladies lets quit killing ourselves to get a thigh gap… go have yourself a hamburger its good for you, it will also support our nations beef industry. Who decided that thigh gaps where the thing? Now I’m not saying that if you have a thigh gap your an emaciated person that doesn’t know what real food is, I’m just saying that we as women shouldn’t feel like we have to fit into a mold that someone else has made for us. I won’t ever have a thigh gap… I don’t really have the body type for one, nor the desire to work that hard to get something so insignificant. Seriously though I have big hips, big boobs, and I’m no size two. I would rather work towards my goals of being healthy, getting into Vet. school, and traveling the world.
Why not give up the absurd goal of looking like a french model and work towards a meaningful life? Is this really the picture that we want to send to our friends, sisters, daughters? I would hate for my sweet little sister to think for even one minute that she is inadequate, that she has to look and dress a certain way to be loved and accepted. I want to be the role model that my sister deserves to look up to. Thats why I fight to be in agriculture doing what I love, its why others should fight be who they are. Quit letting some stranger decide the standards for how you look, how you act, and what should be important to you.
So yes I lift heavy things, I work with dirty stinky sheep, and I like it. I’m a boss at driving a skid-steer and I don’t particularly care what anyone thinks about it. Working in agriculture isn’t for everyone, it has its problems and its perks. Ladies in agriculture lifting heavy things is defiantly a perk! So go out and lug around some hay bales, let your daughter try it out, she may just fall in love with a wonderful lifestyle.
I always smell like some kind of farm animal, always. In fact I don’t know one single true blue farm girl that doesn’t smell a little bit like her farm animals. Typically I smell a little like sheep which usually doesn’t bother me much; I’m used to it. But there are days that it does drive me and other people crazy!
Last semester my mornings were spent working with sheep and goats while my afternoons were spent in classes. I usually ended up leaving work and going to class in Muck boots, a hoodie, crappy jeans, and I smelled strongly of sheep (I try to bring cloths to change into but it doesn’t always happen). Which isn’t bad till you walk in a room and get “the look”, now all of us know what this look is… its the I just caught of whiff of that nasty girl again look.
On one particularly stench ridden day I had to help my boss (Dave) capture a billy-goat, place a breeding harness on him, and move him from one pen to another pen full of doe’s for him to breed. If any of you that read this know about goats you will know that males have a special kind of disgusting smell that seems to be a turn on for lady goats (it’s a gag inducer in all other species). Being in the mere presence of these boys will make your eyes water half of the time. Begrudgingly Dave and I set out to get the job done. In the goat barn we found few of these fabulous white cloth jump suits to put on over our cloths to keep them as safe as possible from the stink (they worked rather well but the smell still made its way through the jumpsuit). After wrestling with a 250+ lb billy for 45 minutes I was exceptionally late for class. Being late, needing to turn in homework, and a little stressed I left the barn without changing cloths. Upon arriving in class I was given a seriously horrifying look by the prissy chick in the back of the class as I sat down three seats away.
People give me a bit of a break here!
A) I have to work to pay for Vet. school (its not cheap)
B) I’m sorry I know that I don’t smell like a box of roses, I don’t need you giving me the stink eye (pun intended).
Now there are things that I do not like about my fellow classmates: students that wear wayyy to much cologne, talk in class, decide that nude leggings are a good life choice, and tap pens/pencils are just a few of my pet-peeves. Note that I refrain from giving them nasty looks as they walk in or look up at me mostly because I am a nice person but also do in part to the fact that I smell like a sheep or in this case a goat. We are all a little lost, confused, and struggling to figure this adult thing out, so how about we cut each other some slack!