Our rams are both yearlings now and it’s interesting to see how different they look. Shaft is a giant brown puffball who will produce a long, soft, really nice fleece for the fall shearing. Bucky is a big hunk of ivory colored muscle and density, who will provide an excellent dressing percentage when his breeding days are over.
Even though both rams were “bred for good fleeces and solid meat conformation”, they each clearly favor one trait over the other. Wool and meatiness as traits are sadly not all that complementary. A lot of breeders spend years on end and multiple breeding groups trying to thread the needle and get a Bucky-level of meatiness with a Shaft-like soft, high-value fleece. Sometimes they get there, but just seeing the starkness of the difference was valuable.
The two traits work against each other to some extent because growing lots of wool takes away from building up muscle, as both require protein. Milkiness or milkability (not the same, the latter is a group of traits really) are more complementary, as we have some serious milkiness in our ewes despite fleece quality ranging from felt to possibly fall-level ok in a spring fleece. And temperament is much the same– Bucky is a very gentle ram and we will totally work to keep that going in the flock, as a jerkish ram is a lot more trouble than a jerkish ewe.
So while we have breeding goals, we aren’t expecting to get exactly what we want with a specific trait just because we picked stock with “good genetics”. It’s also been instructive to see Bucky’s offspring and the range there between his genetics and those of the mothers.
Little Shaft, against all sheep sense, got tangled up this morning in a blackberry bush. I had morning treat out and he wasn’t there with all the others, he was up the hill quietly getting rained on and struggling with the stupid bush. I had to cut yet more branches out of his fleece, and I thought he was knotted up, but he was actually just stuck to the root of the bush. I was able to cut that out with the trimming shears pretty easily and then he ran away, shaking himself out and joining the rest of the flock.
I am going back out in an hour or two to see how he is doing, if he can run on both back legs, he was blessedly not stuck very long, maybe an hour or so. He is so silly, this weekend we have to make yet another pass at his fleece to get the little bits out. Shearing is not an option because he needs the length to keep the bramble from cutting him. The crazy part is that there isn’t much bramble! He just gets tangled in the very few bits that are in that pasture. We may need to take the brush mower out anyway, though. We’ll see after we catch up on hoof trimming and fleece trimming. Again, this very stupid little lamb has an excellent, soft, water-resistant fleece. I marvel endlessly as I cut little bits out because they’re attached to blackberry branches. Better the bramble’s in the fleece than his skin, of course.
Since I want handling the sheep to go more smoothly this weekend (earliest we can finish up hoof trimming), I’ve been going out twice a day and offering alfalfa pellets, letting the sheep (when they could push the goats aside) eat from the bucket and also scattering the pellets near me.
It’s been a few days, the sheep now come near to me with curiosity, although sudden movements when the goats mob me still make them scamper off. But they return, which is new. The plan is to offer treats twice a day for a few weeks, then go to once a day and then just offer a small treat daily. Within reason (because of potential pregnancy), we’ll be probably overhandling the sheep as the winter wears on. It’s better to err on the side of turning them into pets right now if they warm that rapidly because we don’t have a lot of sheep and it will be a long time before we have to consider being more impersonal with a flock even if things go well and we have many lamb blessings.