Today we got the whole family down to the barn for one of my least favorite parts of the shepherd's job; tail docking and castrations. If you go down the page to some lamb pictures, you will notice they are born equipped each with a nice long tail, quite unlike the small appendages on their mothers. So, why take them off? Unfortunately those cute little tails become muddy manure clotted messes as sheep get older, a path for disease and fly infestations. So, off they go. I will not describe the process for the faint of heart except to say that the the little critters are all fine and properly docked. About the castrations of the ram lambs not destined for breeding, the less said the better. Susan does it quickly and efficiently with utter disdain for the squeamish males surrounding her, wincing in shared horror and sympathy.
Here is a the classic nursery rhyme, on the subject of lambs and their tails and the travails of a young shepherdess who needs to get with the program:
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And doesn't know where to find them.
Leave them alone, and they'll come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.
Little Bo peep fell fast asleep
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were still a-fleeting.
Then up she took her little crook,
Determined her to find them;
She found them indeed,
but it made her heart bleed,
For they'd left their tales behind them.
It happened one day, as Bo peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tales side by side,
All hung on a tree to dry.
She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks went rambling,
And tried what she could, as a shepherdess should,
To tack each again to its lambkin.