Yesterday marked the beginning of our sheep calendar for the coming year....we set our handsome boys loose amongst the girls. Flirting for the girls manifests itself in surrounding the boys and literally queuing up and for the boys well, queuing doesn't really feature at all, there is no time to loose, there is a job to be done and it needs to be done as quickly as possible before one of the other rams beats them to it.
The process started with Roly loading the rams up in the trailer and dividing them into their different groups. Harvey our older Charollais plus two of our Texels joined the ewes who are due to lamb in January. This is to make sure that if there were any ewes in this group who aren't pregnant they can now join the rest of ewes from our March flock. It will be interesting to see if there are any 'raddle' marks. Raddles are the harnesses the rams wear which have crayons on them, these leave a mark when they have done their business, so we can tell which ewes should be in lamb. Hopefully there won't be many marks which will indicate the majority of them are due to lamb in January. The second drop off yesterday was with the main flock of March ewes, where young Ted, our young Charollais was first out and ready to meet his ladies! The older Texels didn't hang around for long either! I was holding Molly and wondered what on earth she was making of all the activity....you will be able to hear her on one of our video clips....The third and final drop off was our two handsome Hartline rams who we have put with our group of ewes we will keep any replacements from. These rams are entirely different conformation to the Texel and Charollais who produce lambs with carcasses ideal for the farmers markets and our private orders. Whereas the rams we use to breed our lambs we are going to keep (replacements) are more slender.
The rams will stay with the ewes for 3 'cycles'. A ewe's cycle lasts 17 days so at the end of the each cycle we change the colour of the rams crayon. This helps us manage the flock when they come to lamb and identify any problems. If a ewe ends up with all 3 colours we either need to check her out or it could be a problem with the ram too. Luckily this hasn't happened to us yet, but the raddles are a useful management tool.
It really is an exciting time, each time it comes round every year we wonder at the speed of the seasons passing and look forward to the sheep coming into the sheds and getting ready for our intense but amazing lambing time. We are still desperate for rain and wonder how long the sheep will last outside before we have to bring them in and start feeding them. It will certainly be earlier than last year.
We'll keep you posted on colour codes!
Camilla, Roly, Molly, Belle and Boris