Disabled Shepherd

So I am temporarily disabled because of my back so this is giving me lots of time to think about shepherding and disabilities/aging.  We have always been contemplating ways to work smarter, not harder.  But with hungry critters depending on us, further planning is in order.

So I have been asking fellow shepherds about their ideas.  Mostly I have been wondering about a different shearing/milking stand to minimize bending and lifting. I have been looking into homemade, winched and hydraulic stands with ramps or chutes.

I have been looking into websites that have ideas for truly disabled farmers.  There’s the Breaking New Ground Resource Center and the National AgrAbility Project.  There is also a publication I will order called the Toolbox with agricultural tools, equipment, machinery & buildings for farmers and ranchers with physical disabilities.

Of course, we have been hiring more work here already between the sheep shearer and our son, Thomas.  And we tried to build the barn to accommodate us with a hay loft to drop hay into barn feeders rather than haul it and barn doors to more easily corral and catch sheep and goats.  We got rid of the cows to reduce the work of hauling bales of hay and buckets through the mud and snow in the winter.  And we decided not to breed this year so we can start reducing the number of animals we care for.  But this is going to be a long and thoughtful progress as we age, get sick and injured to keep the farm as long as possible and provide good care for all the critters that live here (ourselves included).

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18 Responses to Disabled Shepherd

  1. Jody says:

    I don’t do anywhere near the volume of work you do but I do help take care of our sheep and I can testify to the fact that it can be very hard on one’s back!! I am going to check out a few of those links thanks.

  2. Tammy says:

    I understand this as well. I find it much harder just to ‘keep up’ with the general chores as time goes on. I’m also planning to pull back for awhile on the breeding end. As many of my sheep are old I know that time in and of itself will thin the flock. I hope to eventually be able to breed a few ewes each year, but realistically know that I can’t handle what I used to. And it stresses me that I can’t. I’d be very interested in hearing the more useful things you manage to unearth–perhaps even future reviews if you use certain products. I definately need a chute/table for the sheep, but have been hesitant to buy, since if I have to lift or force them up on it, it defeats the purpose of protecting ones back… I was down in my back for a short period of time earlier this year and it was truly frightening how close I was to not being able to care for the animals. Hope you recover soon.

  3. Nancy says:

    Boy, do I know what you’re talking about! It is even more of a concern for me because I live alone. If I can’t take care of the animals, they don’t get taken care of! I love living here (by myself!) SOOOOO much and will hang on as long as I possibly can, but I do know that my physical ability will be the determining factor of when I have to give it up. It doesn’t help that I’m 45 miles from my closest child, so I don’t like to call her for help either.

    Taking it one day at a time in the Bluff Country..

    • Nancy, It seems like I have hit a nerve, much like the ones in my back! We can ask for or hire help and use the equipment we have to our advantage to extend our lifestyle as long as possible. You are right, one day at a time, also here on Jarmin Prairie!

  4. Michelle says:

    I think it behooves all of us to be thinking ahead like you are, whether or not we as yet have physical limitations, because if we don’t work smarter, the physical problems will come sooner rather than later! When Rick had his heart attack I gave thought to what I could do by myself, should it come to that, and decided that the sheep would stay regardless….

    • Michelle, I have been wondering if you were thinking about similar issues, given your recent experiences. I clearly need to take better care of my back now but still stay active. All of the feed as well as our wood pellets for heating and our bottled water are 40-50 # in weight, and the critters are weigh this much or more too- except the chickens and rabbits 🙂 So changes need to come quick. I cannot depend on Tom for all the feed, water and heat.

  5. Gail says:

    I am the sheep feeder in winter, here– and use a “hand truck” with modified platform to walk the 2-3 bales I need over to a black plastic sled made for hauling– just the size of small sq. bales– out to the sheep. I cut the strings and feed “flakes” at a time, not a whole bale.

    But the sled is best if you live in SNOW country. Wheelbarrows are good too.
    I don’t have a back problem, yet, but I like help. DH can still do the heavy lifting, and I did learn to pay a neighbor boy to mow the many acres of grass lawns all summer long, which was GREAT!
    The question of income– do I earn more in my hours of NOT mowing than I pay him– is relevant only if I am physically able to do what I pay him to do.

    So much to consider. Good luck to you.

    • I sometimes think snow would be easier than mud. We have a great garden cart, but its wheels get stuck. Our tractor even gets stuck too. I have always ressited paying soemone for something I can do myself, but I am starting to mature (or get lazy) and paying the young and unemployed.

  6. Chai Chai says:

    This is the very reason why we got smallish sheep that we can roo instead of having to shear. Less wrestling and struggle to keep them healthy. They require less fodder so less lifting required. You have this as well with your Shetland Sheep and Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

    Lots of great information in this post, thank you.

  7. Karen Anne says:

    I have a hard time with the idea of paying someone to do work I can do myself, but the fact is I can’t do it like I used to. So if I have help, things get done much, much faster.

    Every time I hire someone, though, it’s an admission of mortality 🙁

  8. Donna says:

    Or at least of aging. But with the economy as it is young able-bodied folks could use more hiring.

  9. Hi guys,

    I have been getting information and disabled farming from the Breaking New Ground Resource Center through Purdue University. I have the Toolbox CD (but have not had a chance to look at it yet) but also received a pamphlet on back impairment in farming. They mention the “Warrie” back aid. Here’s some information about it: http://www.hornershearing.com/acatalog/shearing-warrie-back-aid.html. I have noticed photos of shearing in slings but never looked at the clings themselves that closely. It is expensive and appears only for sale in Australia and New Zealand. But maybe it is something someone could make for themselves. I have tried shearing with a long bungee cord around my waist hung from the barn ceiling with limited success.


  10. Hi again,

    Next in the article (which is at http://www.ecn.purdue.edu/~bng/BNG/plowshares26.html)
    I found a description and photo of a calf cart.
    A calf carrier, such as the Caf-Cart, Kalf Kradle or Moo-Glee Calf Carrier, can be used to transport a calf or hold it still while dehorning and performing medical treatment. Caf-Cart made with a counter balance axle and ball bearing wheels help reduce back strain.

    I wonder if something could be used like this for sheep (rams).


  11. Marianne says:

    Hi! I found your information really helpful and am also going to order some of the information listed. We have a small flock of sheep and I have a neck problem that led me to 2 surgeries and subsequent arthritis. We’ve made alot of changes around our little farm (i.e. lots of hoses and connections so I don’t have to drag hoses, a water tank on the back of the ATV, a shearing stand with a winch and ramp so I can help with hoof care and shearing, feeding flakes, etc.) I couldn’t do it without my husband, but it helps me to stay involved. Again, thanks for the links and other info and I hope you get resolution with your back problem soon.

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