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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Clunk Day

lol!  Well, I don't have any pictures of Clunk Day, but yesterday was it.  What on earth is Cluck Day, you wonder?  Around here, Clunk Day is feared as the most challenging day of the whole year, and this year, we did it the day after Christmas!  It's the day we break up our breeding groups and put all the rams back together in one space...a VERY, VERY SMALL SPACE, so that they can only clunk horns, not whack!

Wheely Wooly Whirlwind (Whirly) and Wheely Wooly Moonlight were outstanding rams during their time with their girls.  The ewes were very happy in their groups, too.  You can tell by the sparkle in their eyes and the quality of their fleeces.  The rams take very good care of their groups, and I always hate to break that up when it's time.  Wheely Wooly Splash (Splashy) was also a very good ram, and of course, Wooly Bear was king.  He's a piece of cake...a testament to the outstanding value of a ram with good temperament!!  All of them were good rams and all the ewes are content and healthy coming out of breeding season.

So where do the rams go?  In prior years, I put them back together in a makeshift wire fence pen in the barn...just big enough for them to move around, but not big enough for any backing and whacking.  When you put rams back together, they smell like their ewes, and that is what creates all the trouble!  Rams are very protective and defensive of their group of girls, and they take their rights to them very seriously.  So when you put the rams all back together, with the scent of all the ewes mixed in on their wool, it creates defensive chaos.  They feel threatened by each other, and feel a strong need to drive each other away.  They will defend to the death, if they feel it necessary.  So putting the rams back together is always a worrisome time.  So far each year, it's not been too bad and I think the way I handle them, and the temperament I breed for helps in a very big way.  They are kept in this small pen for about a day.

Why the small pen?  Well, it gives them the opportunity to move around, get reacquainted, and realize they are all more girls around.  They sort of get reintroduced that they are all guys and that they don't need to be so defensive anymore.  In this process, they scurry around, rubbing their horns on the sides of each other, pushing each other around, or standing head to head, pushing on each other.  From the moment you put them back together, they are grunting, growling, and clunking horns.  You can hear the clunks and clicks as they rustle around in the straw.  This year, I have them in a stall in the barn that is more secure than others, and has a nice window for light and fresh air.  As they rustle around, their horns clunk on the walls, on each other, and on their water bucket.  Yep.  It's clunk day!

This is the day I spend a lot of time out in the barn, just finding things to do.  I frequently keep watch over them, and check on them frequently to make sure clunking is all that is going on.  If things get out of hand, I must intervene with a nice splash of cold water.  Works like a charm!  I also feed them small amounts, frequently, to keep them occupied and busy and moving (i.e. rubbing on each other) until they all smell alike and feel less rammy.  Also a great charm!

Well, all that was yesterday.  On our barn check late last night, the rams were all laying down and peaceful.  Perfect!  This morning, still all peaceful.  No karate-chopped boards, no splinters, no injuries.  Perfect!  I think we've made it through another year of Clunk Day!  Whew!

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