Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Playing God with Sheep. No more Head Butts!

Which ones have to go?
The trouble with rams is, like young men, they tend to let their hormones rule. They occasionally indulge in bouts of laddish behaviour, stomping about, sniffing the air and charging headlong at each other...THUD!
Because of this, the four Shetland rams which I purchased a few months ago were never going to all make it into their third year.

The lucky one, who I call Doc, is no longer intact, so to speak. This makes him a wether and as such he qualifies as a perfect companion for a fully equipped ram.
The unlucky one, I rather crassly named Hitler. He only has one ball. The castration ring obviously missed its mark.
Then there are the two who obviously breathed in deeply when the castration rings were being doled out. So I had to play god and decide which would survive.

The lucky survivor will spend his next few years sharing a paddock with Doc. Come late autumn he will get to visit the girls.

When some friends enquired about buying a lamb, I had to tell them that all the lambs for this year were sold, but that I did need to thin down a little on the Shetland rams. I suddenly wondered, is there such a thing as ram taint? For male pigs, once their hormones get active, can acquire a rather unpleasant taste, especially if kept with sows. This is known as boar taint. I researched the subject and found it to be a rather grey area. Some said that the meat may taste a bit stronger, 'goaty', but many said that they could taste no difference. The crucial thing seemed to be to send them off before they got too randy in the breeding season.
And so, for the last month, the Shetland rams have been living away from the ewes. Last Sunday was D-day. I'd chosen the survivor, based on his good looks, ample equipment (!) and on his size. I actually chose to go for the smaller of the rams - something a commercial farmer would surely not do - precisely because the whole point of Shetlands is that they are a smaller, slower growing breed. Most of the ones I eventually send for meat will be hogget, two year old sheep, for Shetland hogget is supposedly some of the best meat you can get. A smaller ram would make for simpler lambing in the spring too.

So the decision was made, the sheep were loaded into the trailer and off we went. The butcher will have collected them by the time I publish this and is going to hang them for a week. Today, though, I pick up the horns, since a couple of friends have requested them to use as handle for walking sticks / crooks.

Anyway, you're probably wondering who is the lucky survivor.

And here he is. I may even give him a name now. Any suggestions?


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