Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

In like a lamb; out like a ram

Breeding season here on Wheely Wooly Farm is now over. Yesterday, I gathered up all the rams and wethers into a tight pen. Two snowy snowstorms have been predicted; one for last night, and one coming Saturday. It's good to have them in and easier to care for. No more outside water buckets! Yippee!!

We set up a small square pen in our pole building, away from the girls. Then pair by pair, I took the boys out of their pastures and brought them in. They were delighted! Wilbur and Pumpkin came first. Then Cosmo and Wink...brothers. Then Lerwick, who was not sure he wanted to be separated from his girls, and then finally, the King of the Hill, Wooly Bear. The square pen gives them just enough room to move about, but no back up space or charge space. With the six of them in there, it was a little like bumper cars for awhile! They hit each other whichever way they could swing their horns or rub or bump or try to charge a short charge. Then they figured out that if two or three of them stood still in the center, the rest could racetrack around them! So around and around and around they went...taking turns as if tagging one another with a whack or rub...until tongues hung out and sides heaved. I sat on the hay and watched for awhile, to make sure all was not too "heavy-horned", while Snowy twirled around, waved his tail under my chin and nudged my mittens for pets. Then, I went in the house for a cup of coffee, pretending like I wasn't worried.

Now of course, worry is worthy, for bringing rams back together can mean injuries, farm remodeling, and chaos. They may be small, but they can really whack stuff! Here is a real test of the temperments I've been nuturing, with reved up hormones! I am always kind to my rams, showing them I'll take good care of them, but they are always strickly treated as rams. I never use horns as handlebars, even briefly, unless it's a dire emergency, even then only briefly if no other choice is safe. I always encourage heads up...thank you Marybeth for that most EXCELLENT advice! I have seen many times that rams who have their horns grabbed by a human will drop their heads, which is exactly what you DON'T want! I have also halter trained all of my rams and wethers...just makes life sooooooo much easier! Moving them is a cinch. They come running to the fence at the sound of my voice...with the exception of Wilbur who is usually wearing the fence...or climbing the fence in his usual puppydog way....I slip the halter on, taking time to get it around horns with a big loop and a quick tighten up on the left cheek. Wilbur is especially easy, for he'll come right at your level for you and stick his nose right in the halter (giggle, giggle). So moving them was really easy, that is, until we came to Wooly Bear! Turns out, his fencing was frozen in the ground and I forgot about that! OOPS! Now what?? We pondered and hemmed and hawed. What were we going to do? He let me try to lift him. I couldn't. We tried stuffing him under. Didn't work. we REALLLY want to take him over the top??? Do we really want to teach him to go right over??? No choice. So we stepped the fence down and hoped he'd trust me to follow me over what usually would give him a very unpleasant experience. He followed me over with only slight hesitation! What a good guy!! I love this ram! Problem solved.

So anyhoo, I'm in the house for some time, enjoying some acid reflux, when I decide it's time to check on the boys. I was worried. What if they break their fence? Will I find someone bleeding? Did anyone jump out? As I walked out to the barn, I listened for loose ram noises. Humm. All's quiet. Not a sound. Ok, so I open the door and walk around the corner and I saw NOTHING! WHERE are the boys???? As I gulped and walked closer, I began to CRACK UP! They were all laying down in evenly spaced out increments, against the fence...... sleeping!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok! I wasn't expecting THAT!!!!! It was a good day!

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