Merry Christmas and all that.
Merry Christmas and all that.
I’ve been concerned that Mr. Fancy Ram hasn’t been doing his job. He’s been in with the eight dorset ewes since 2 December, and he’s only visibly marked 3 of them. I was hoping that he was continuing to do his job and that his raddle was just fading, not leaving blue marks on the ewes’ butts despite breeding. On Sunday I brought the katahdin group in with the dorsets, hoping that Angus would breed any gals the dorset ram missed. In my perfect world, the two groups would hang out for 17 days, peaceably socializing, while no further breeding occurred. This would tell me that both rams had done their bits, and all ewes were on the way to making lambs. Instead, Angus bred 3 of the dorsets in the first 12 hours, marking their butts emphatically red.
Assuming that this is the first time these ewes have come into heat, the best I can say for the dorset is that he’s not as enthusiastic about his job as Angus. My fear is that they were cycling when he first joined them, and he missed them. The next test will be to see if the ewes with the dorset ram’s blue mark will be re-bred by the katahdin.
If that happens, Mr. Fancy Ram may be freezer-bound, and I can report back whether $1200 lamb chops taste more bitter than the usual kind.
Five days ago I wrote about my skepticism of raddle powder as a means for marking breeding. I managed to apply more raddle to the young North Country Cheviot ram that day, and the results may turn me into a believer.
The ram seemed pleased with his handiwork.
My new conclusion is that raddle creates very clear marks, thank you very much, if you get enough of the damn stuff smeared on the ram. And my concern that the ram lamb might not have been up to the job of breeding his group of 18 ewes seems premature as well. Since the reapplication of raddle, he’s leaving a sea of red butts in his wake.
Angus, the big katahdin ram, was pretty worked up on the day of the breeding sort. He took a hard shot at Cass as she was starting to move them to the handling system (She yelped, but then inflicted at least as much damage to Angus with her teeth as he had with his skull. That convinced him to defer to her once again.), and Bill was on edge lest Angus knock one of us over the fence. I imagine that all the cheviot-sired lambs, just across the fence from the rams, were ovulating in earnest and his hormones were raging. The good news is that he’s now channeling all that testosterone into more productive activities.
As of this morning, he had bred five of the eight ewes he’s responsible for, and he seems very pleased with his new family status. My 1½ year old border cheviot ram wasn’t acting out to the same extent, but he’s also been busy: 14 of his 27 ewes were marked this morning. The two younger fellows, the dorset and north country cheviot rams, are lagging behind, having bred well fewer than half of their respective harems; I’m hoping they become a bit more efficient, but I’m afraid they’ve missed their opportunity with some of the ewes. The fact that the two older rams have bred so many suggests that more than half of the ewes were cycling in synchrony, so the youngsters won’t get another crack before I combine the ewes with all the rams for cleanup duty during the second ovulation cycle.
Over the course of the year, I’ve often fought with my anthropomorphic tendencies, e.g. here and here. Usually this takes the form of imputing human characteristics onto my animals, but the breeding dynamics suggest that the anthropomorphic arrow may have two heads. I would love to take the rams’ performance as evidence that older men are inherently superior to younger ones, but I can’t imagine anyone taking me seriously. Oh well.