boys, I

Too much still going on at work.

Meanwhile, much has been going on at the farm, although I’ve had little time to share.

I’ll start a little series today (we’ll see how long it takes me…) on stories about boys on the farm in recent days:

  • Shemp
  • Tagine, Tatanka, and Half Moon
  • J.R. 1
  • J.R. 2
  • Tom

I just made that list to remind myself. My brain is a complete sieve these days.

So, Shemp! Who is Shemp, you may be asking.

Well, Shemp is the ram suitor we borrowed to breed our four ewes, Brownie, Spot, Cinnamon, and June Bug.

Ron had to do some research, trying to find an unrelated male Navajo Churro within a reasonable driving distance. We could have bred the four ewes with Thor, one of the two breeding rams on the farm where we got the Navajo Churro in July of last year. However, he’s the grandfather of (let’s see if I am getting this right) at least Spot and Cinnamon. Not great in terms of genetic diversity, although better than some breeding practices (yuck).

Long story short, Ron was able to contact someone who had actually bought a Navajo Churro ram and ewe pair off of Craigslist some months ago. Unfortunately, the owner’s dog killed the ewe. 😦 Fortunately, Shemp the ram is a real sweetie.

Shemp’s owner and Ron worked out an arrangement. Because the weather last week was supposed to be colder and rainier than we had initially expected, Ron contacted Shemp’s human last Sunday and asked if he could pick up Shemp early.

He was able to do so, so we spent part of the morning separating our boy sheep from the girl sheep. Tagine, Tatanka, and Half Moon ended up in the pasture next to and above the corn patch, orchard, and garden with the much-beloved sheep shack. The four ewes (and eventually Shemp) got most of our pasture on the south(ish) side of the property, along with the sheepie tipi in the woods.

I’ll share more stories about Tagine, Tatanka, and Half Moon another day, but we were able to get Shemp into the enclosed corn patch. He spent about an hour in there, watching the other sheep (both boys and girls) through the fence. Interestingly, he was more curious about the wethers, although they were often closer. He’s a remarkably friendly and non-aggressive ram. He walked right up to us, wanted pets, acting as if we were old human friends.

After a little time apart, we let Shemp into the large pasture with the ewes. Since then, it’s been a reminder about basic biology lessons, including “the birds and the bees–and the sheep.”

To share with you non-farmer types who do not have domesticated livestock, the ram is interested in female sheep going through estrous. In female sheep, that happens every 16-17 days. It’s pretty clear that he senses when an ewe is about to start her estrous cycle because he follows her around for a day or two. At this point, the ewes aren’t interested in the ram and pretty much annoyed that this pesty boy is following them around a lot. The cartoon bubbles over their heads say, “j u s t   l e a v e   m e   a l o n e . . .”

However, after a day or so, we are reminded, ahem, of biology.

And after about 24 hours, that’s it. The ram checks out the other ewes, trying to figure out if any of them will start their estrous cycle.

Based on, ahem, Shemp and ewe activity around here, it appears that Spot, Cinnamon, and June Bug all went through their estrous cycles the very first week Shemp was here. We are waiting on Brownie–not to mention Shemp!?!? Unless we somehow missed it. That would be easy for me to miss since I’m away from the farm for much of daylight most weekdays. But it would be more surprising if Ron didn’t see something.

At any rate, we’ve marked the calendar with possible ewe impregnation dates (!?). We’re waiting to see what’s going on with Brownie. Meanwhile, Shemp seems to be a bit bored with the girls. He keeps wandering over to the small patch of fence that both sheep pastures have in common. He was even nuzzling faces with all three wethers through the fence. Based on how sweet and gentle he is (plus he’s a pretty small ram), we might be able to have all the sheep together. However, we’re still too nervous about reintegrating the flock in case the males get in a fight.

More on what the wethers thought of all this another day.

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One Response to boys, I

  1. Lisa Kozleski says:

    Thanks for this wonderful and welcome glimpse of farm life!

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