Ram Lambs

Though I usually castrate all my male lambs, I raised two rams this summer. One, eartag Yellow 04, a purebred but unregistrable Clun Forest, I agreed in March to sell to a local breeder. I am going to deliver him to his new home at the end of the month, after he has bred all my ewes. The other, Yellow 05, a much smaller ram, I had traded to the school this summer in exchange for hay, when I was desperate and all sources came up empty.

When he made arrangements to pick up his ram lamb last Tuesday, I explained to Mike, the school farmer, that 05 was smaller than my usual lambs, but that he definitely seemed interested in breeding.

It has been amusing over the past six weeks to watch 05 attempt to outsmart his older, much taller, much burlier half-brother 04 and get to a ewe in heat. I would spot little 05 on the far side of the flock, lip curled appreciatively as he scented the available ewe. Then he would slink through the flock, slipping unnoticed between the larger sheep, until finally he reached his inamorata. At this point fate generally intervened. He could rarely resist giving a low throaty nicker of love into the ewe’s ear. At the sound, 04 would lift his head in outrage, charge through the flock, and — pow! — knock his little brother flying. Thereafter 04 would position himself between 05 and the ewe, hovering jealously at her hindquarters.

The ewe herself usually seemed unconcerned by all this flapdoodle, stolidly chewing hay.

On Tuesday 05 was distressed when I caught him by the hind leg with my crook, pulled him out of the flock, and shut him up in a stall by himself. He bleated his loneliness.

“I know it’s hard,” I told him. “But you are going to be very, very happy by tonight. A flock of twenty ewes — all for you!”

Mike arrived with his trailer after lunch. 05 was so small Mike could carry him onto the trailer in his arms. I apologized for the ram’s size but reiterated my impression that 05 would be enthusiastic for the task ahead.

Indeed he was. Two days later Mike reported that they’d put a marking harness on little 05 (the straps wrapped around his body twice), and therefore knew that 05 had bred four big ewes in his first 24 hours.

Mike smiled. “We named him Randy!

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