This week it was time to separate sheep into breeding groups. After much debate and deliberation I ended up using five rams this year. I don’t NEED five rams for the number of ewes I have but it’s always fun to find out how each ram will match with the flock…and there is also a bit of “not putting all one’s eggs in one basket”.
There are a lot of criteria in selecting a ram to buy or a ram lamb to keep in the flock.
Fleece is the most important characteristic for me. If I don’t like a ram’s fleece then I don’t want to use him no matter how great he looks otherwise. I want to stay within the Jacob breed standards but consider fleece weight, fiber diameter (determines if a fleece is soft or scratchy), crimp, and freckling. One problem with making decisions about young rams is that you’re better off waiting until 18 months to fully evaluate fleeces. That is a long time to hang onto a ram and then decide he stays or goes. With my small acreage I just can’t hang onto several rams to evaluate a year later. I need to make my best guess at about six months old.
Horns. You can have the best ram from all the other standpoints, but if the horns grow into the face he will have to go. Here is a blog post with examples of two-horn rams.
Color. The Jacob Breed Standard states that registered sheep must have 15-85% color. That’s a broad range, but not all sheep fit that category.
Jerry is a 5-year-old wether who won the sheep-lottery by having a beautiful fleece, but with too much color to be kept as a breeding ram. He was castrated as a lamb and was kept to be a buddy to any sheep who had to be separated from the flock. He lives permanently with Faulkner, the BFL ram. Also note how narrow his horns are. If he had not been castrated those horns would have grown tight onto his neck or face.
There is more, but this was going to be a post about the rams I am using this year, not a how-to-choose-your-flock-sire post. However other traits to consider are personality (yes, really), conformation, size, birth weight, gain, and is he a single/twin/triplet.
I hadn’t planned on keeping Meridian Joker, but as I looked at lamb weights over the last few months he stood out as one of the heavier ones. I sell at least half the lambs for butcher and the sooner they can be sold the better. So rate of gain is important. His horns don’t have a huge spread, but hopefully they will be all right as he grows.
By the way all the rams in these photos are wearing marking harnesses with red crayons. That’s what all the color is.
Starthist Dragon is on loan from a friend. When I evaluated his lamb fleece a couple of years ago I was impressed and Trish remembered that so offered him for the season.Bide a wee Buster came here from Oregon last June. He was so small I had my doubts about him being up for the task this month, but I should have had faith.
Meridian Catalyst is a ram who was born at the 2015 State Fair Nursery. He is a lilac ram with nice fleece and markings. That’s him in the middle of the ewes on the second day of breeding season.Faulker is ram #5. He is a Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) and sires the black (brown) lambs. He is the big guy in the center of the photos. His lambs are larger than the 100% Jacob lambs and are mostly sold for meat although they have very pretty fleeces and also wind up in some spinners’ flocks.Faulkner enjoying some time with the ladies.Isabelle, marked by Joker.Skye is in Catalyst’s group.Jillian is with Faulkner.Joker looks a little disheveled after a few days.Buster has his work cut out for him to reach those big ewes……and needed a nap after the first morning out.
For any of you who pay attention to this stuff and may be wondering about the other Jacob ram I bought this summer…I discovered a few weeks ago that he must have been injured by another ram and his horn had changed position so that it was growing right up against his jaw. I found that the point of attachment was movable (I don’t know if went all the way to the skull which means that it would have been fractured). I tried to give his face a little more space by using wire and duct tape but that didn’t work. This is not a sustainable situation so he is no longer with us.