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Buck Sheep Pedicures

Sheep bucks can be a source of entertainment when viewed in the appropriate light. Photo by Jan Swan Wood

It was October of about 1992 when the bucks started getting restless. My folks ran sheep, along with cows, therefore had to deal with the headache of both bucks and bulls year round. The bucks on the ranch were mostly horned Rambouillet. When the nights started cooling off, the sap started rising in those bucks and they started thinking about breeding season.

That they wouldn’t be turned out until December 20 had no bearing on their restlessness in October, and they started fighting and just flat knocking the corrals down. Those big horned bucks would back across the corral, sight in on a post, and launch themselves at it, hitting it so hard that it would rock the whole fence. The fence wasn’t a weak fence either, with big posts on eight foot centers, 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 plank and windbreak boards on them. Over and over they’d hit those posts, just like Bighorn Sheep sparring at the state park.

I was helping Dad with some work around the place when we heard a loud crack and saw a section of that good fence flat on the ground, the post finally broken off. The bucks were still within the corrals, but the fence needed fixed so we did. While tamping the posts and getting the fence back up, Dad mentioned that the best thing that could happen to those bucks would be to have their feet trimmed short enough that they’d spend all their time trying to walk to feed and water and less time fighting.

Dad and Mom were leaving the next day for a long anticipated trip in their motorhome. We finished up the fence project, once again confining the bucks to their pen. I helped get the motorhome loaded that night and bright and early the next morning they headed out. I was to take care of the ranch, get the hay stacked that was still on the meadows, take care of the stock, and do whatever needed done in their absence. Taking care of those hateful bucks was part of the deal.


“Those bucks weren’t your run of the mill bucks. They were wild and big. They were in no way user friendly and their shoulders came to my waist. ”– Jan Swan Wood

The next few days the fever pitch of the fighting and fence pounding kept increasing. One buck had had his ribs punched in and was dead. Something had to change. I decided that trimming their feet was the only thing I could do.

Those bucks weren’t your run of the mill bucks. They were wild and big. They were in no way user friendly and their shoulders came nearly to my waist. Any one of the horned bucks would run right over you to go out a gate and when cornered would fight. Sheep alleys were a steeplechase course for them, so they had to be handled in cattle pens.

What I had in my favor was good pens and three dogs that were what you’d call tough. Any two of them were too rough for yearling cattle and some cows. They were protective of me as well and really broke. I could send the two Border Collies any direction I needed them and the catch dog was there for insurance.

I got my gates set in the barn and all the gates set in the corrals so I could move those bucks. They were even wilder when a horse was involved, so I was going to try to do it afoot. The icing on the cake is that I had my very small wwo year old son along and had to make sure he didn’t get wiped out too. Once I was all set, I went and opened the gate from the buck pen, staying behind it for safety, son on my hip. I sent the dogs around to bring them out and they came at a high lope. They’d met those dogs before. I kept the catch dog by my side to use only if I needed her. She was just a little rough even for those bucks.

They went through the corrals like a herd of antelope, down the alley, into the last pen outside the barn. They were leery of the door into the barn so they milled. I got the gate shut behind them, went through the barn and came out behind the big barn door. From there I could send the dogs to put them in the barn. They ran for the back of the barn and I shut the gate behind them. Whew.

Next step was to sort one off at a time and out into the big calving compartment. There was a stout gate that was long enough to swing clear around and hook at a post ahead of the head catch. My plan was to trap each buck behind that gate. That gate and those posts had held every mad cow that had ever met it and I knew it was stout enough. I put my son in another pen where he could watch from safety (I hoped) and put the old catch dog in with him to protect him.

Using gates to protect me, I sent the Border Collie dogs in to bring a buck out. One held the bunch while the other split one off. I shut the gate behind him while he ran to the end of the calving pen. Before the buck could double back, I had the big calving gate between us and crowded him into the corner with it, chaining it tight when done. Next I got a rope with a breakaway hondo, the old type that had the thong that you could pull to make it open. I got up on the hinge end of the gate and dropped a loop over the horns on the buck. He was trying to reach me so was really close. That made it easy to get the loop just right. Then I took some wraps around the big post on the head catch and drew him up nice and close and tied it off. Now I could open my big gate for room to work. Getting my second rope, I heeled him. With those long legs it was like heeling a steer. When heeled, I pulled his feet out from under him, and took my wraps on a post by the wall. First buck was stretched out and all ready for his pedicure. He didn’t seem very happy about it.

I did a nice thorough job of trimming his feet with the horse nippers, making them shape up like they ought to be. I even rasped them a little to round the toes. They sure looked good!

First one done, I let the hind feet loose and coiled my rope. I opened a small barn door out into an outside pen, swung my big gate back around and chained it. I climbed back up on the hinge end and reached down and tripped the breakaway and my first victim was free. He was on the fight too! I swung the gate around so that he could see daylight out that barn door and away he went. I slammed the little door, wiped my brow and repeated the whole procedure on the rest of the bucks.

I don’t remember now how many there were. Less than 20 I imagine, but it seemed like 200 by the time I was done. When I set my gates again and had the dogs take the bucks back to their pen, they were sure noticing how hard that old gumbo was in the corrals, and where there was some gravel, they minced along a little more slowly.

When Dad called to check on things a week or so later, he asked me if the bucks had taken the corrals plumb down yet. I told him that they’d been really peaceable and were just eating their hay and laying around chewing their cuds. He thought I was joshing until I told him I’d trimmed their feet. He couldn’t imagine how I’d done it with those wild, woofy bucks without getting hurt or worse. I think I told him that I used my feminine charm on them.

They stayed very peaceful clear to turnout time. They’d been sound for a month before then but I have to wonder if they just didn’t want another pedicure so close to time to hit the big pasture.




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