RAINIER, Ore. — Scotty Davidson started raising sheep in 4-H because they were the only animals he wasn’t allergic to.
He has continued to raise them because he likes them. Now retired, Davidson is able to give them his full attention, which is necessary in the coyote-infested hills of Columbia County. With 240 new lambs on the ground, Davidson and his five guard dogs are on duty around the clock.
Davidson’s farm is a 28-acre wooded parcel about 10 miles west of Rainier, Oregon. While part of his flock is pasturing on rye grass fields near Corvallis, lambing takes place in the barn near his house. Once the lambs are born, he transports them and the ewes to pasture he rents in nearby Clatskanie.
“Raising sheep here in the foothills of the Coast Range means one thing for sure — coyotes,” Davidson said. “I have five guard dogs (Maremmas) — I keep two here at the lambing barn, two in Clatskanie and the other one on a strip of land I rent underneath some Bonneville Power lines.”
USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service says about 190,000 sheep and lambs are raised on 2,753 farms in Oregon. Davidson’s flock accounts for a big percentage of the 1,000 sheep in Columbia County.
With hundreds of lambs on hand, Davidson has a set process.
“I lamb and ear tag them in the barn before loading them on the truck for the trip to Clatskanie,” he said. “I load the new lambs in a large pet carrier so they won’t get trampled on the way.”
Davidson retired after 30 years as a Columbia County deputy sheriff.
“The positive for raising sheep where Davidson is, is that we can use the grass cycle well,” Chip Bubl, long-time Oregon State University Extension agent for Columbia County, said. “We get 60 to 70 percent growth from mid-April to early July so we can graze efficiently and put meat on the lambs.
“Coyotes, internal parasites and foot rot, however, are another matter,” Bubl said. “These health problems especially need a lot of thought and planning help from our veterinarians. There are not a lot of new materials developed to help with these problems.”
Bubl said Davidson’s worming management plan is targeted.
“We are trying to make worming management targeted to ewes, time the worming when those parasite numbers are high, try to target treatments based on parasite loads in droppings per-sheep and breed for more parasite resistant lambs,” he said. “Scotty knows what he’s doing and is doing a good job.”
“It is just a given that parasite and coyote problems come with 46-inches a year of rain and living in the foothills of the Coast Range,” Davidson said. “In the meantime, with the help of my boys, who are involved in 4-H and the guard dogs, we’re seeing a nice crop of lambs.”