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What About the Boys

teenage rams, Hatchtown Jenks & Hatchtown Reece

teenage rams, HT Jenks & HT Reece

I haven’t spent any time talking about the rams. It’s not because we don’t pay any attention to them. They’re really very funny and sweet.  At this time of year, Jim spends more time with them than I do because of the division of chores.  I deal with the hens on a daily basis and he takes care of the rams. But I do visit them to say “hello” and give chin scratches. I’ve often thought it’d be fun to have a flock of rams…just love their personalities but we’ve only ever had Coopworths so I have nothing to compare them to.  They’ll almost always accept scratches and stand still while you check under their coats…and oh! what beautiful fleeces they have!! You know, the ram is 50% of all the lambs he produces so it stands to reason that you want him to be a very spiffy guy! Our boys live in their own little group and even have the best accomodations — a very nice greenhouse.  Ram temperament is really important to us and we believe its genetic, at least to some degree. But we also feel strongly that rams are much better behaved when they’re in a group and have playmates. It’s true that for just a small flock of ewes, you really only need one ram but if you keep him alone, he will undoubtedly become a pain…your pain! 

yearling ram, Hatchtown Onyx

ram lamb, Hatchtown Onyx

Sadly, lone rams often end up at the auction because they appear to be mean when in fact, they were just needing companionship.  All sheep are flocking animals ie they need to be in a group…this includes the males. Keeping a wether (castrated male sheep) with your ram is an economical way to keep him happy. Choose a wether with a beautiful fleece and selling it will pay for his feed (almost)…and maybe he’ll save you from the emergency room. Another approach is to keep 2 (or 3) unrelated rams (intact).  This will initially cost more but if you do, you may still avoid the emergency room, still get big, beautiful fleeces to sell and with good record keeping, you may not have to bring any new animals onto your farm for a number of years.  This is a big plus because new animals need to be thoroughly checked for disease and/or parasites, quarantined, etc. and that means more work for the shepherd. In addition, when we disrupt the pecking order by bringing in a new ram, it has to be re-established.  

apparently Hatchtown Beck is camera shy

ram lamb, Hatchtown Beck

This usually means a stint in “the rubber room” — that’s a small stall in the barn with wall-to-wall tires on the floor.  The rams have to think about where they’re putting their feet and because the stall is small, they can’t really get far enough apart to do any serious ramming.  Usually after a few days, they’ve figured it all out and they’re good to go.  But…the less often we have to do this, the happier we are…and I’m sure the rams feel the same way.

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