Not long ago my four sheep were tested for prophylaxie ovine (brucellosis). It’s nasty and infectious, and generally a Bad Thing. The testing is compulsory and has to be carried out every five years, the actual years depending on your département. For Creuse, it was this year. So we made an appointment for our vet to come round and take blood samples.

Then the fun started. We obviously needed to round up the sheep and they also had to have a patch on their necks sheared to make life easier for the vet. The blood is drawn from the jugular vein.

Now, Lambo was never going to be a problem. He’s our hand-reared lamb, now a fully-grown ram, and is as friendly and dopey as he ever was. We easily lured him into the stable with some grains.

We thought his faithful harem of one Suffolk ewe and the two Charollais ewes would happily follow. Yeah right. They shot off speedily in three different directions. We all ran around for a while and then, realising this was getting us nowhere, actually thought about what to do. The girls were clustered around Oscar, their adored guard llama. Duh. We smacked our heads in realisation. We should have got Oscar into the stable rather than Lambo. So, we called Oscar over with grains, grabbed his halter and paraded him towards the stable. The three girls meekly trotted behind and we had them contained. Oscar was reluctant to leave but we shoved him back into the field to get him out of the way.

OK, first part of the mission completed. Now for part two – shearing. Needless to say, Lambo was no problem at all. The only problem we had was deciding how much wool we should shave off. Since this was our first experience of these blood tests we weren’t sure what the form was. We opted for a generous amount of dewooling. Lambo enjoyed the attention, a bit too much actually, since he kept poking his head in when we were dealing with the girls. They weren’t so simple. First we had to catch each one, and we hadn’t had any of them long so they were still on the wild side. This took a lot of energy. Then we had to wrestle the ewe to the ground and hold her still enough and for long enough so that Chris could do his thing with the heavy sheap-shearer without slicing into a vital blood vessel. Fortunately, once you have a sheep on its back, it generally goes immobile. Benj held front legs, I held back legs, Caiti supported the head and Chris shaved. The first ewe, a Charollais, was done. She flew off when we’d finished so we tackled the next one, the other Charollais. We got her into a corner and then flipped her over (easier said than done), Chris got the razor – but this wasn’t the other Charollais, it was the ewe we’d just done! This time we targetted our next sheep more carefully and after more exertions which luckily no one videoed, we had the shearing mission over.

The Charollais are the white faced sheep

We went off for coffee and buns to fortify us for when we had to overpower the three feisty girls again and waited for the vet. Lambo, of course, bounded over to see this new friend and had his blood taken before he even realised. Then the tussling began. During the battle the vet and I clunked our heads together and Chris ended up flat out on the straw and a sheep, pinning her down and losing his glasses in the process! But the deed was swiftly done and we felt we’d performed in, well, maybe not a professional fashion, but at least fairly competently.

The results came back yesterday, all negative, which is good news. And it wasn’t too dear. It was €25 for the vet’s time and expertise and another €11.43 for the analyses. However, maybe we’ll have a sheep-free year in 2017. Benj and Caits most probably won’t be living here anymore and Chris and I will be five years feebler! Mind you, Rors will be up for a more active role. He was guarding the gate to make sure no one escaped. It was a real team effort, effort being the key word!