Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To Ram, Or Not To Ram?

My friend and Bluff Country Skittles former owner, Nancy K., has just had a sobering incident with regards to her "boys" at her place. Nancy came home to find a couple of the boys battling it out over their respective harems with a "Winner takes all!" gusto adding fuel to the fire. Her fences were broken and heads were bloodied by the time she was able to separate the combatants to their respective pens. I'm sure Nancy had pictures of roast mutton with mint sauce whilst mending her fences in freezing weather. :)
To those who are not especially "Sheep Savvy", male sheep that are usually docile during the rest of the year can become very temperamental, to say the least, during the breeding season.
I remember back to when we first moved here - there was a young man driving a VW Bug out to the "wilds" to watch elk during the middle of the rutting season. One bull elk found the Bug to his total dislike and proceeded to absolutely destroy the bug. It was totalled and the young man barely got out before being crunched himself. That type of behavior illustrates how those raging male hormones can take over an animal's way of thinking. It's the same with sheep. You never turn your back on a ram...never.
Skittles, while still a gentleman, has also exhibited aggressive behavior during this breeding season. And I've noticed that his attention has now turned from the girls to his ball and post. It could be that the girls have settled and are now "with lambs", or are not in season this week. Since they have grown tired of Skittles attempts to court them, Skittles has been seen grunting at and licking his post and ball. Frustration, I'm sure. Most rams have a nice number of ladies to address. This year, Skit has just the two. It must be maddening for him. All those hormones and nothing to do with them but bat that stupid ball around!
You don't HAVE to have a ram for sheep breeding. Modern technology has come to the aid of the small farmer and, for a sum, you can have a technician come to your place and choose the sire of your lambs from a catalog. The tech will then surgically deposit said ram's donation to your cause in your chosen ewe and there you have it...Bob's your Uncle! No need for watching those tirades and rants. No need of super-fencing or big sticks and buckets of water. Hmmm...
And in breeding animals we must always keep in mind why we are breeding them in the first place. It is my belief that, when breeding sheep, a ram must exhibit something really special to be kept as a breeding animal. I am a believer that 90+% of all male lambs need to be wethered unless they are near-to-perfect of that particular breeds' ideal animal or have some other outstanding quality. And no amount of beauty will make up for a bad temperment. The trick is to know WHEN to wether the ram lambs. Do it right after they are born and you risk losing great genetics. IF that's your goal. If fleece is your goal, wethering allows all the lamb's energies to go into wool production. And wethers make good pets as well as no problems with temperment during the "Season of Raging Hormones". Of course, if you're breeding animals, you need to see what you've got before decisions are made.
The key is you really have to think about what you want. I know Nancy has developed some really great bloodlines. And I know that she now needs to consider other things in her life. I applaud her for making great decisions both in her breeding programs and now, with selling her great rams. It was a decision that took a great deal of soul searching and courage to make. And I can sure understand her not wanting to deal with rams.
As for Sheep Thrills Farm...we'll see what kind of lambs Mr. Skit throws this next spring. I'm sure we'll have nice ones and I will have decisions to make about whom to keep and who needs to be sold. And I will watch Skit during the year to make sure he's still a gentleman. I'm sure he has nothing to worry about.
In fact, I think I heard him ask me to take him for a walk since the girls were no longer receptive to his masculine charms. Or was that just the wind I heard? ;-) In either case I think I'll wait until I'm sure his hormone level is back to a normal tolerance. But I still will not turn my back on him...ever.


Tina T-P said...


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

As you know, I'm hoping for an outstanding ram lamb from Valentine next spring with which to breed Dinah, Rechel and Bella next fall. It was always my plan, IF that happens, to sell said outstanding ram lamb after he "contributes to the cause," as I do not want to keep a ram at Boulderneigh. All the recent posts to the Shetland list have only reinforced that!

Good news there. Lois has decided to leave Clarion's girls (including Valentine) in with him, so the cross I want is more likely.

It's good to be home from San Antonio, although today - the first day home after getting in at 1:15 a.m. - has been fairly nightmarish. Lots of catching up to do, and fires to put out....