Handsome is

This ram lamb, born on Friday morning, is special for several reasons. First, he and his brother are the first lambs out of Pairodox Jill, a lovely two-year-old full shetland. Second, his markings are unusual for our flock which tends toward solid colors. And finally, this little guy is the 400th to be lambed here. For our small spinning flock this is something of an accomplishment of which Joanna and I are very proud. Building a breeding flock of any size takes lots of work, planning, and not a little luck. We had neither purebred ewes nor purebred rams for our first five breeding seasons and it wasn’t until 1999 that we lambed our first full-blood shetlands. The year after that we lambed five full shetlands and all were rams. Generally speaking, and in our opinion, intact males are a liability, both genetically and in terms of certain realities of flock management. Having too many intact males around during the breeding season makes any determination of paternity potentially difficult, if not impossible. If we cannot use a male for breeding purposes he is wethered. We grow our flock by accumulating females only, the number of breeding males is constant (usually two or, at most three) and these rotate biennially. Because of rigorous culling, one’s flock typically grows in fits and starts and in any particular year a flock can easily take six steps forward (by the introduction of six ewe lambs) and five steps back (by culling five older ewes from the group).  Like all things in life, maintaining and improving our flock has taken both patience and perseverance, words we have always lived by. Just two more ewes to lamb and the season will be over. We like to finish shearing before the beginning of May so we’re right on track. After a beautiful day here yesterday it’s raining today. Joanna always says that lowered atmospheric pressure brings the lambs on … we shall see.


21 thoughts on “Handsome is

  1. Oh my goodness… 400 … that is mind-blowing.Do you get a new gray hair with each lamb, or is that just with humans? 🙂

  2. Just loved this photo. Thought we’d be having some of our own, too, after the past weekend. Couldn’t sleep all night last week, thinking about how you noticed the size of the ewes bellies in a photo I’d posted. The next day, sure enough, a couple of them had put on some behaviors that were worth watching more closely. And by the weekend, I’d convinced myself that they were going to lamb any minute. Gave myself a good dose of anxiety, and lack of sleep by Monday had me with a migraine. Cold, 22 degrees out, and no lambs yet. As Char trooped off to bed, she said “They can pick when they’re going to lamb, can’t they? They won’t lamb tonight.” I want to believe her. That is one gorgeous little guy. Loved all the info. in this post and the comments as well. Especially enjoyed the post with the tree-top photo, but need to re-read in the a.m. for a second time. It’s very thought provoking, I am wracking my brain for an article I’d read earlier, this morning in fact, along the same vein. Hoping it will come to me so that I can see how it fits into my thoughts. Happy 400th lamb – WOW!

    • The lambs will come when they’re good and ready … you don’t want them underdone. You’re a pro and know what to look for … they tend to go off by themselves … they’ll lick at their sides … they tend to look restless. No worries. Cold is OK as long as the wind is down and as long as everyone is dry. If it’s really, really cold, and there’s wind, or the ground is very wet, perhaps you could encourage them inside? Anyway, the Mom’s know what do to – trust them – they know their business. Little ones know what to do too. You and Char need to CHILL. Watch a movie, drink some tea, think about something else. Get the dry towels, iodine, scissors, and camera ready by the back door. Good luck! Let me know when you’ve got the first ones on the ground. D (and J)

  3. He is just beautiful and full of cheek, surely he’s a keeper with all those portents hanging around him 🙂 Do you eat the animals you cull, or sell? I imagine it tastes very good with the great lifestyle you provide them.

  4. I think the ram knows something we don’t! By the way, when I was much younger and acting a bit cross I recall my father saying I was “as crooked as a ram’s horn.” Do you use that expression?

    • I’ve never heard of that one … but the horns of Shetland rams do grow in great, extended, whorls. The horns of the castrated males however, with reduced hormone levels, do grow sort of crooked, twisted, and gnarled. Perhaps it was these your Dad was referring to? Did you folks raise them commercially or for your own consumption? And … what breed? D

      • Up until the 1960’s sheep were commonplace everywhere in rural NL. They were as much a part of personal daily life as were the small vegetable gardens just about everyone had. These days it’s different and the sheep are almost not to be found at all. The sheep were of mixed sort consisting, I think, of primarily Cheviot.

      • It took a bit of digging but I found a picture of one of our sheep taken behind the house built by my great-grandfather around 1850-1860. The picture was from around 1959 or so. I believe it’s a mixed breed…

      • Just looked THAT up. So do you decide early on which ones you will wether and which ones you won’t? From the brief passage I read it suggested that you generally use this technique in the first 3 months.

        • We wether as soon as possible. Using terms from the casual vernacular … we wether as soon as the jewels have dropped enough to be snagged. Usually a bit before 12 weeks if we can. Thinking about becoming a sheep farmer?

      • Let me think about that … NOT ON YOUR LIFE! 🙂 I’ll leave that credentialing for YOUR resume!

  5. Awww. So adorable!! Will his pelt be multicolored too? This shot could be used commercially somewhere!
    My nephew Nat and his wife Crystal had a baby girl on Friday too! Ariana Charlotte. They live in SF so we won’t meet her for a while. Congratulations on reaching your 400th milestone! Do you use your flock just for yourselves or do you loan some out? Sell them?

    • Yup … if we don’t sell this guy before next fall we’ll probably have a multicolored pelt! We like to keep the number of animals in the flock steady, around 25 or 30 at the most. That means we have to cull as many adults each year as lambs we decide to keep. So, for example, when all is said and done this year, we’ll probably have 20 lambs. We’ll hang on to perhaps 10 … so that means we’ll cull the other 10 and have to additionally cull 10 adults from the flock to keep our number steady. It’s a tough business sometime because Joanna always wants to keep all of them … and you can’t do that. But, over time, because of rigorous culling your flock gets better and better and of higher and higher quality. We’ve been doing this for nearly 25 years now so our flock may be fairly small but it’s of the highest quality. Not that that brings in buckets and buckets of dollars (or any dollars at all for that matter) … but it’s something we’re proud of having accomplished. D

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