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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Tradition!

Don't overstuff yourselves!
My Shetland ram, Wooly Bear.
Just as we love our annual turkey dinner, so too does Wooly Bear love his annual pumpkin treats!  Hopefully, we'll be a bit more graceful in our eating style at our family holiday table! lol

Wheely Wooly Splash, as a newborn with his mom, Gwendolyn

There is  news about Splash.  I thought we were going to lose him!  We still don't know what happened, but he wouldn't eat one day.  So I brought him in and began observing him.  He had no signs of injury or disease, and had been bright-eyed and healthy just that morning.  I'm thinking in hind sight that he might have taken a whack from another ram and perhaps had some sort of internal injury.  It was a sad day and I wasn't sure he'd make it.  He didn't have much pain or any symptoms to really observe, but something was clearly wrong.  Whatever it was, he is clearly getting better!  What a relief!  He is so sweet, and such a nice ram, I'd hate to lose him.  I don't think we're out of the woods yet, but his energy is clearly better, eyes bright again, and he's ready to do his work!  My rams and wethers get along great.  If they didn't, somebody would go.  They have their order that they rarely challenge.  Splashy was at the bottom, with Whirly.  They are best buds, always hanging out together.  Both are very, very sweet.  Both are getting girls this year! (...and that'll change 'em!) Let's hope all turns out ok for Splashy for good!

(In fact, I put Whirly with his girls and he INSTANTLY...I mean I don't think he was even fully through the gate...turned from sweet little guy, to a whole new posturing, sniffing, circle-turning, expert at his job!  Ok, it cracked me up at how FAST that transformation happened. lol  Atta boy, Whirly!)

I was planning on mentioning why you'd want to halter train all your rams.  Rams MUST be handled, whether it's for hoof trimming, healthcare, breeding inspections, shearing, or just plain moving them from place to place...there are many reasons why an untamed, unhandled ram is not good.  ALL rams are dangerous to some degree.  They are unpredictable animals with instinctual thoughts that are beyond human understanding.  At BEST, we can only try to follow their thoughts and needs.  That's why I always advocate for early handling of rams.  That means, we don't play with them, but teach them to respect us and that we respect them.  They are actually very intelligent and loving, but they are still whacking machines!  They LOVE scratching on their backs and chests, and they love chin scratches just where their wool and facial fur meet on the underside of their chins.  They find any touching to their horns or tops of head (even the bridge of their noses and that wooly area between the eyes), or just behind horns on heads to be extremely threatening.  Don't ever touch them there!  

If you think of them as intelligent, amazing beings, you won't have much trouble with them, unless you taunt them, handle their horns, or don't breed for proper sweet Shetland temperament.  Good breeding, good health, and good handling will give you a happy relationship with your rams. They are healthier, safer to have around, and easy to move about to your ewes.
Wheely Wooly Lerwick
I can easily move Lerwick around anywhere I want with a halter.
I halter trained him as a baby lamb.  It's second nature to him.
Here's a cutie!  Baby Wooly Bear learns the halter is not a wolf.
The very first day I had him home, I had the halter on him.
Day two, the halter was on again, and we were working on handling.
By day three, he understood that he would survive, and that I was not a threat.

Today, Wooly Bear is frequently handled.  He is very affectionate and I love giving him attention.  He is also a very powerful top ram who can whack so hard, the sound of it can make you queasy.  I also see worry in his eyes from time to time that his lambs will out-power him someday and someone else will be top ram.  I hope I'm around the moment that happens, for I've already planned that he will be pulled from the group and given his own pen with his buddy, Wilbur.  Wooly Bear is a treasured ram and I'll keep him as long as I can. But for now, he is in his glory, King of the Farm, foundation sire, cornerstone to our flock!

From your friends at Wheely Wooly Farm, have a stuffingly good Thanksgiving everyone!

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