Monday, 21 July 2014

Silence of the rams

There is an old saying amongst sheep breeders that “a ram is half the flock”. That’s saying refers to the genetic value of the ram rather than the ratio of course. But nevertheless I often find that despite the important role that rams play in sheep production, many rams spend 10 months of the year out of sight and out of mind.

I suppose it’s easy to see why the boys can easily be left in a far flung field and forgotten. After all, so much of the shepherding year is focused on the ewes and lambs.  At any given time of year a shepherd will be flushing, feeding, weighing, lambing or weaning off the ewes. In fact even at tupping time the focus is often more about which ewes bottom has been marked with the raddle crayon than the rams own achievement.
Tupping time!

Another contributing factor may be that while the breeding ewes are retained for a number of years the rams are often swapped, borrowed, and regularly replaced so are not always viewed as a long term investment. In addition to this, a ram with a large set of horns and a cantankerous disposition is unlikely to make his keeper want to spend much time in his company.

Regular readers will not be surprised to discover my rams are not the mean and moody types even in the mating season though they do sometimes get frustrated with each other and occasionally a little “over friendly” with me!

"I'm a lover not a fighter" says Luke -
 Humn? A lover of pies if you ask me Lukey boy!
The Ryelands that I keep are a laid back little bunch who don’t kick up a fuss and in fact very rarely bleat. Even at weaning time the lambies separated from their mums settle quickly with the help of a shearling ewe or two as chaperone. The separated ewes too, only bleat during this period to tell me that the short dry grass that they are put on to help their milk dry up is not what they are used to or that their udders are aching and require a gentle rub. In fact this minimal bleating is pretty useful as it means that on the rare occasion that they are bleating, I know that they are trying to tell me something.
"Last one to get to the grass is a commercial breed!"

The rams however never seem to bleat regardless of the grass quality, separation or discomfort so ensuring that they are happy and healthy requires a little more close observation on my part. My rams love a cuddle and a chance to get out and about so they regularly get let out of their field to potter around the farm yard for a back rub and to “help” with farm yard tasks. This “time out” means that they get lots of attention as well as an opportunity to graze the grass verges, have races along the drive and jump on and off the muck heap.  It also means that my tasks take a little longer as their playful and inquisitive natures get them ( and me ) in a spot or two of bother from time to time.
Luke "tidy's up" the Muck heap

Caught in the act- Buddy tries to eat the evidence
Despite their mischief though they are gentle and good natured chaps who behave more like a pair of large playful dogs than adult rams. So spending time with them this way is always lots of fun and ensures that they are never neglected or forgotten! 
Buddy and Luke -the strong, silent types
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