Spinning a yarn

Steve Kendall | Bendigo Weekly | 11-Jan-2018

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All of the girls needed their toenails done.

When I say girls, I mean the sheep.

As I have mentioned, the sheep take up a major part of my spare time, moreso because the long-suffering Mrs Kendall likes to keep them in tip-top shape.

The sheep, all 130 of them, are her children, and they are treated as such, sort of.

The sheer effort in catching sheep and checking their tootsies was a major task, so we looked on line and found the sheep tosser.

This remarkable piece of equipment is a catcher and rotator in one, after running the girls up the race, you clamp them in and rotate, and there they are on their backs with their legs in the air.

Some of the girls went quietly, and the kicking and thrashing was vastly reduced, allowing Mrs K to get in with the toenail clippers.

My job was to operate the tosser, so once you get the knack it turns the job into a dream, almost.

Despite sheep being flock animals, there are many different ways they behave when confronted with the equipment.

They had to go through a gate and then through a couple of claws and then the operator, me, pushes forward on a bar. 

I was pushing too early, too late and mostly just right. Too early or too late and the prongs are in the wrong place, and the sheep will wriggle, you need to be either side of their ribs.

Anyway, you get the drift.

We got through them over a couple of days and only have a few bruises to speak of.

I never get through a sheep day without a bruise or two.

As they were released from the tosser the next stop was the foot bath.

It was all part of the operation, and after Mrs K had beautifully clipped and shaped their nails, the footbath in a zinc sulphate solution aimed to harden them up and clean them.

I was just the sheephand in all of this leaving Mrs K to direct me, which she loved.

Of course, you can’t explain to the sheep what is going on, so at most points they seemed to imagine it was their last moment on earth. Their relief when the job was done and they are back out in the paddock was instantaneous.

But I tell you this, the relief was nowhere near mine and Mrs K’s, who had clipped 500 feet by this point, and her hands were cramped into claws.

I staggered into the house for a clean up and a nice sleep, no need to count sheep to help me snooze, I had been doing that all day, and I had the scars to prove it.

@stevekendall1

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