Attack of the Killer Ram, and a burst of hybrid vigour - Tactical Ninja
Nov. 21st, 2013
09:54 am - Attack of the Killer Ram, and a burst of hybrid vigour
I see lots of people on my flist are doing Christmas card swaps right about now. I've decided not to participate this year. While I love the sentiment behind it, I have never known what to do with them afterwards when I'm left with a pile of dead trees that have no further purpose and just get thrown out or clutter up the house. It makes me feel vaguely guilty, so I've decided to avoid that and just tell you all I think you're fantastic all year round and please don't think any less of me for my weird foibles about Christmas cards.
Sadly, last night I forgot my camera so there are no sheep pics. At least, not ones I took.
The people I was shearing for have traditionally kept moorits:
Moorit is a colour, not a breed - something to do with a mutant recessive gene - so they can come in any breed. The local ones round here are mostly a mix of Corriedale and Romney:
So if you can picture those mooshed together and the colour of milk chocolate, you get the idea.
Apparently their sheep do reasonably well in shows, but they are getting bored with brown wool and are now venturing into other colours. So they bought a couple of Perendales:
The idea being that the Perendale ram and the Perendale ewe would do the wild thing and there'd be fat little white lambs. It didn't quite work out that way - turns out Mr Perendale was reluctant, but Mr Polwarth:
Was dead keen, and By Midnight 0ut of The Back of The Shed, miraculously a Perendale/Polwarth ewe was born. She was at least white - given that the ram was black, that was interesting.. She wasn't supposed to breed at all, but the other experiment in coloured sheep was Gotlands:
And it turns out that Mr Gotland is quite adept at sneaking through fences, and thus one of this year's lambs is Perendale/Polwarth/Gotland. A cross most likely never seen before in the history of mucking about with sheep breeds.
Mind you, Polwarths are a cross between Merinos (small, lightweight fine wool breed) with Lincolns (gigantic coars-wooled meat breed):
And that worked.. So, you know - people do weird things with sheep breeding.
Anyway, the tally for last night was 9 sheep:
1 gotland ram, one gotland ewe
1 polwarth ewe
1 perendale/polwarth ewe
2 corriedale/romney moorit ewes (Womble and... ?)
2 corriedale/romney moorit ewe hoggets
1 corriedale/romney moorit wether hogget (Squirt)
The last three were triplets. Squirt was raised on a bottle and he is now bigger than his two sisters, both of whom have won prizes at shows. The ram is bolshy. I suspect the people they bought him off were afraid of him, and they have passed on the warning to his new owners, who are also now afraid of him. He's had a go at both of them and if he doesn't pull his socks up he's likely to be named Jellimeat and banished from probably the best home he'll ever have.
However, it got me thinking. The first thing they did when I got there was warn me about the ram. Now, I have a healthy respect for rams. They are bigger than me and I know they could break my leg if they caught me off guard. I need both hands to tip them over and when I shear them I usually do it the way they decide they want to sit - because I'm not above modifying my technique to make life easier for myself, and fighting with a big strong stroppy ram is likely to end with me losing.
But. I do not approach them with fear. Sheep are like any other prey animal, in that they recognise you as a predator and if you're tentative in your approach to them they will see you as a weak predator to be driven away, and that's when they're most likely to have a go at you. Rams and newly-birthed mother ewes especially. So I used another sheep as a shield between me and this ram (who was indeed trying to stare me down), and managed to get a good hold on his head with both hands. He immediately launched himself upwards and danced around on his back legs, but I hung on (hanging on is my specialty - thanks Ma Biddle for that lesson) and eventually he fell over. Once he was on his back he gave up, and the rest was butter.
I don't have a lot of hope for his future though. He's a nice looking ram, not too big, prolific, nice fleece, but his folks are already scared of him and my confident manhandling will soon be forgotten if he's not handled like that regularly to keep him respectful. His folks are experienced sheep people but they are approaching retirement age and not confident of their ability to do that with him. They only handle him with a gate between them. I expect he won't be there when I go back to shear the lambs, because rams get more aggressive in mating season and it'll only take one more attack, I suspect, before he signs his own death warrant.
And that's one reason why that cute little bloke I posted the other day is likely to end up as sausages as well. Male sheep that've been reared on a bottle lose that natural fear of people, and their size plus lack of fear makes a dangerous combination. Much better to never treat them as pets, because it's too sad to have to euthanise them when they've knocked you (or your favourite nephew/niece/grandchild) over and danced on you as an adult.
Meanwhile, I predict Gotlands as the Trendy Lifestyle Sheep of 2014. I'm doing more and more of them. This is fine by me - they're easy shearing and don't grow too big, and tend not to get daggy either. I totally blame The Hobbit.