With ram homework complete, I begin separating the ewes, determining who will be their most suitable suitor.
I am missing my senior ram, Brad Pitt this season.
He had been my main breeder, called "terminal sire" since I started my sheep adventure.
It was a sad day last spring when Brad Pitt passed on. He had not been feeling well for a couple of months . He received lots of care but he was unable to recover to his previously robust self. One day my family was visiting the sheep and told me he was lying down and would not get up for sheep treats, an unheard of thing. I went to the barn to find he had just been waiting for me to come be with him. I sat down, he put his head in my lap and looked at me and basically said "thanks for being here, I have to go now". Brad was a purebred dorset ram that not only made some very desirable lambs; he was also always a gentleman. The day he died was a tough part of naturally nurturing, from conception to completion.
There are 3 rams on the farm this season.
is a purebred dorset who started his work with ewes in 2017. An experienced worker so to speak. Experienced however his engagement with ewes has been limited as Brad has always been the first choice breeder. Brad had the most females as he was considered the beginning of a geneology line. Brad would breed with a ewe; her ewe lamb if chosen to stay with the flock would then be chosen to be Channing's mate. As a result, Channing just started working in 2017 and was only given a few ewes to get used to his job. This season he is going to be asked to move into the roll of "terminal sire", the big cheese, so to speak. This is an unplanned promotion. Although I am confident in his abilities, asking him to take on the major role is completely unknown if he is up to that task.
BB King is a young purebred Clun Forest ram lamb
born on my farm in March 2017. This coffee colour fleeced fellow with chocolate brown face and legs and perky ears, was such a good looking youngster that he got separated from other rams lambs with a different destination. My brother and my husband started lobbying for his permanent place in my flock when he was only a month old. Big and healthy, this independent fellow's perfect conformation made him stand out from everyone else. Also, he had very large testicles. This is a very redeeming feature in the sheep world. I have described in a previous blog that shepherds are not shy when it comes to this important topic, asking strangers to measure the circumference of the important body without hesitation. Hey, rams are essential to a shepherd, there is no place for subtle talk. The human males in my world quickly named this young clun forest ram B(ig) B(alls) King for his visible maturity. BB King will remain a child in fall 2018, waiting to be introduced to females in fall 2019. He will spend this year on the other side of the fence, hoping the girls at least notice him this year.
Maurice Chevalier is a purebred Iles de France ram with beautiful wool. In sheep lingo wool that it is still attached to the sheep and shaved off each year, is called "fleece". Maurice Chevalier is stocky and well formed which is supposed to produce great meat in future offspring. I purchased Maurice from the only breeder around, in New Brunswick, one September day in 2017. Having lived in a large flock of sheep, he came to me completely unfamiliar with being touched by a human. As soon as this new addition to the flock arrived at the Petite farm I housed him in a stall near the front of the barn so he could become accustomed to my nurturing ways. In the first few weeks if I even approached the stall he would head to the back of the stall and literally crawl up the walls trying to stay away from me. Some sheep treats and lots of catching that moving target, talking gently and rubbing his nose, brought that wild and crazy teen boy around. Slipping a halter on him, he learned that if he walked quietly with the shepherd there could be delicious treats as a reward. Today, a year later, he is the first to the front of the stall when I pull a piece of bread or carrot out of my pocket. He walks quietly, anywhere on a halter and only once did he forget to be a gentleman. That day he was, understandably, being protective of his best friend, Channing Tatum. That morning, as usual, I opened the stall where the 3 rams hang out every evening. As they headed out to the gate to their daytime pasture, Channing got the "fall is coming and I am feeling a bit full of my testosterone today" look. When that happens, it is my job to make this 250 lb animal lie down on the ground and remember that I am THE BOSS. Now, getting a strong, testosterone filled ram to lie down is akin to lifting 250 lb weights off their stand, twisting a bit and then placing them on the ground. It is a learned behaviour to position yourself just so, turn his head so he is a little off balance and then, voila, the ram is on the ground and you are looking down at him, While I was tending to this discipline I forgot about the other 2 rams also in my presence. Rule of rams: Never turn your back on a ram no matter how well behaved he is. What did I do? While telling Channing Tatum that he had to lie down and behave, I turned my back on the other two rams. BBKing, just a baby, stood there and just watched, reminding himself to continue to behave. Maurice Chevalier on the other hand, a teenager also full of testosterone, did not take kindly to my disciplining his buddy. With my back turned to him, Maurice took advantage of the situation, backed up a few steps and then, WHAM, butted me right in the butt, knocking me down so I landed right on top of Channing Tatum. I was surprised but I reacted quickly knowing I had to respond appropriately if I am to remain "The Boss". I jumped up, grabbed Maurice Chevalier and also made him lie down on the ground. Suitably disciplined, I allowed both of the misbehavers to get up on their feet. The two remorseful rams stood their looking very embarrassed that this little human being had made them lie down in front of all the other sheep. So, with respect restored, the four of us, shepherd and 3 rams, then walked peacefully together to the pasture gate. The rams walked politely into the pasture, headed straight to the apple tree to do their morning chore of eating the apples that had fallen to the ground overnight.
The comraderie of the boys is about to change. Women are about to enter their world.