Theory and practice are two different things. Many things sound good in theory but when put into real world practice don’t quite make the grade.
That was the case for my lambing protocol this past week. In theory, we have a lambing protocol in which every lamb spends an adequate amount of time in the lambing jug and is then tagged, has its tail banded, is weighed and vaccinated before it is turned out of the jug. Then the jugs are cleaned thoroughly and disinfected before the next ewe is brought in.
This week my theory and protocol failed miserably in practice.
I must admit that the failure was not at all a bad thing. This past week, we had the best and fastest week of lambing we have ever had. It seemed like every time I went out to the barn and pens to check, there were several more ewes in labor. We only have eight jugs in our lambing barn. Usually eight is plenty, and most of the time we are not rushing ewes and lambs out.
All of this started the middle of last week, and soon the lambing barn and the pen around it were over capacity. Somehow in the blink of an eye, I had 11 ewes and I don’t really know how many lambs calling it home. It was time to call in backup and get them moved to their more permanent home, where they would stay until weaning.
I talked Dad into helping me move the first wave of ewes and lambs. It was a big job but fortunately, I had followed protocol and the lambs were all tagged so they could be easily paired up with their mommas and moved. In a couple of hours, we had them all successfully moved and settled. The lambing barn was completely empty. This was Thursday afternoon.
The next thing to do was to completely clean and disinfect the barn. No matter how nice I talked to him, Dad did not seem to want to stay for this job. I thought I could clean it and it would probably be good for a couple of days, but it seemed like each time I stopped scooping and looked down at the maternity pens, I had another ewe in labor. By the time I finished cleaning, I had half of the jugs refilled with ewes either in labor or cleaning off new lambs.
By the next morning the barn was not only full but overfull. I had to throw the protocol out the window and turn ewes out without tagging their babies. Now don’t get me wrong, they were not out in the big pen but in the smaller pen in front of the lambing barn. However, this still would make the next task more difficult than it needed to be.
Saturday morning, I had a full crew of help to clear out the lambing barn, which was even fuller after another night and morning of more lambs. We had ewes and lambs everywhere. You know what? At that point, they also start to look alike.
My crew, and especially the CEO, were not impressed. They were constantly reminding me that we have protocols in place for just that reason. We would watch and as soon as a lamb or lambs would decide that they were hungry we would snatch them up and place the appropriate tag in their ear. What should have taken maybe half an hour took much longer.
However, at some point it was like putting a puzzle together and as we moved the pairs out and the options became fewer, progress did start to happen quicker. It was not quick enough for my critics, which happened to be my help — and of course the CEO. She did mention that this would be brought up at my next performance review and my pay would be docked accordingly. Can you dock zero pay?
Eventually, the lambing barn again was brought down to a manageable level and only three ewes and babies remained. Again, as the barn was cleaned, more ewes decided to go into labor and soon the barn was once again close to capacity. This time, at the insistence of the CEO, protocol was followed, and the lambs were worked and tagged shortly after they were born. Sunday, the new lambs and ewes were moved with much less angst and criticism.
This leads to my point on theory and practice. In theory, one would think that I would learn that when the lambing protocol is followed that life is much easier and the CEO is much happier. In theory, that would be true, but we all know that in practice men don’t often listen to their wives — or I guess I meant to say labor doesn’t listen to the CEO.
And there you have it, the difference between theory and practice in the real world.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at email@example.com.