Monday, November 30, 2015

no more rams, but hopefully lambs

Yikes, here I am again, up against the end of the month! Why yes, my new job keeps me much busier, why do you ask?

Our big news this month was that our beautiful Coopworth ram boys, bred and born on our farm, are off to greener pastures. Not in the euphemistic sense, but actual new pastures with fresh ewes to breed and all sort of adventures awaiting.

The first to go was Monmouth, who left mid-September. My husband was sorry to see him go as he was one of his favorite animals ever on the farm. But if a ram gets a new gig, you have to let him go. Not all rams are so lucky.

When we got the call that Monmouth had a new home (he went to a commercial farm with cross-bred ewes), we had to act quickly. Breed for next year before he left, or go another year without lambs? One of the favorite ewes in our flock, Secondo's Kali, was at a now-or-never point in her breeding career. We have never gotten a ewe lamb out of her, and we would love to have one. And she is getting older and heavier, so if we didn't breed her this year, she would probably never breed again.

So we went for it. And while we were breeding Kali, we decided in for a penny, in for a pound, and bred all the ewes while we had two willing rams.

Marking harnesses on the rams, coats on the ewes to protect their wool from the marking crayon, and off they went into their separate pastures. Kali, of course, was the last ewe marked, the morning that Monmouth left. We'll see if she takes.

Hard to say if the ewes were thrilled or not. (Just to be clear, we don't tie them up to be bred. We have them haltered and tied because we had to separate them into breeding groups for each ram, and make sure that they had proper fitting coats, trimmed hooves, etc. before we release them with the ram. Those annoyed looks have more to do with their feelings about being tied up on halter.)

Once Monmouth departed, that left Mercer, our stunningly gorgeous and well-mannered boy, one of the nicest animals ever produced on the farm, all by himself. Well, he was in with a couple of ewes, but he couldn't stay in with them all winter and definitely not once the lambs started arriving. Luckily for us and him, a good home presented itself before too long. He went to a new-ish Coopworth flock in Pennsylvania, to be buddies with Elwell the ram. His new owner reports that he is happy so far with the situation, though he hasn't been introduced to Elwell yet (Elwell is still busy with his own ewes).

Now we are down to ewes only, a situation we haven't had on the farm in several years but, from a flock management point of view, one of the easiest configurations to manage throughout the winter. Everyone can be together, and for the first time (since we had no ewe lambs this year), everyone can stay on the same nutritional plan while those lambs are hopefully growing. I was surprised by how much I missed the hurly-burly of lambing this spring. It may just put me under, but I can't wait until those lambs start making their appearances in early February—provided the rams were in with the ewes long enough!