Saturday, October 6, 2007

Straight Ahead, Ramming Speed

"Natalya! One of the rams is in with the ewes!"

Suddenly my mental "to-do" list hits the mental trash can. I take a deep breath, and walk out to assess the situation.

Yes, there is a certain urgency here...if the other ram manages to breach the fence as well, mayhem could ensue. Breaking up a fight between two breeding rams is NOT a safe or easy proposition. The sound of 200+ lb. animals flinging themselves at one another's heads is something that is more felt than heard--an indescribable sensation that I always hope never to experience again. If there is just one fence separating them, and they decide to fight, the fence becomes inconsequential. I've seen welded rod cattle panels beaten into curvilinear sculptures in a matter of minutes. The boys don't even seem to notice that they are crushing the metal between their heads.

Thankfully they are not yet fighting, and they are in separate pens. So the first response is to quietly move the ewe flock, with the stray ram, into a different pen separated by TWO fences.

Then to observe, ponder, plan. How long has he been in there? No one knows. How many ewes has he bred? Ditto. Which ones? Unknown, but important information...we'll know for sure about 150 days from now. That would make it about March 1. The 4th Sat. in February--our annual shearing day--is about a week earlier, so that's a reasonable margin. I don't like to shear during lambing.

My experience last year with two distinct lambing seasons was: insanity. One is enough. In observing Buddy with the ewe flock, I see that he's very interested in at least 4 ewes, and has mounted at least 3 of those in my presence. Based on all of that, I decide that today is the beginning of breeding season. God and Buddy have decided the date for me, whether I like it or not. Well, probably they know as much about such things as I do, or more, so I'll just go with the flow.

So I sort out the ewes to breed to Buddy (including today's favorite ladies) and set aside a few to breed to Dudley, mostly based on trying not to breed daughters to sires, and putting as many as possible with Buddy who will be out on pasture with better access for us to haul in hay to feed his harem.

Dudley and his select few are in a new pen, in the east part of the front yard. Before putting them in there, I took a few minutes to overseed with rye and bromegrass seed. That pen is mostly Bermudagrass these days, which will frost-kill. The rye will hopefully give some fall and winter grazing, while "nursing" the baby brome that I hope may outstrip the Bermudagrass.

A few of the smaller lambs are in the barn pen, for special feeding. Other than these, my lambs this year are pretty much grass-fed, very little grain so far. The hanging weights on the carcasses processed last week were pretty comparable with previous years, considering the age of the lambs, so I'm quite pleased. Next year the pasture will be even better (God willing) and I'll be more confident about advertising "grassfed lambs".

That took the entire morning, right up until time to change into a bus driver for the rest of the day.

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