Breeding Sheep

November 5th, 2013

On saturday I helped our new friends in Whitefish, Montana; Dick and Diane Ward bring six ewes from their Merino sheep flock to a farm in Kalispell where they will be bred to two rams.

 

Before we transported the sheep I helped Diane trim their hooves by flipping the sheep upside down into a sheep chair and then I would hold them in place while Diane clipped. This was a very funny process to watch (I’ve never seen anything quite like an upside-down sheep before) and I’m here to tell you that sheep are heavier than they look.

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Dick and the dogs (Boarder Collies Fin and Meg) loaded the sheep into the trailer.

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When we arrived at the breeder we met John & Carol Steitz who were also dropping off two ewes and helping to move the rams into position. One of their sheep needed a new jacket which required catching and holding the sheep (Coco) while the jacket was changed (twice). The sheep jackets come in various sizes notated by letters of the alphabet with the smallest sizes being A and B they get larger from there and so a sheep jacket will need to be changed as it grows and as its fleece comes in. The jacket keeps the fleece clean and protects it from damage throughout the year.

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The final part of the process involved bringing the rams to meet the ewes. This requires planning and man power as the rams can be very strong, territorial, and dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. John and Carol worked together to lead the more temperamental of the two rams Dudley out of his pen and into the pasture with the ewes. On the way he was “gooped up” using a red paint-paste substance on his chest so that the breeders will be able to tell which ewes he mated with on which days allowing a more accurate prediction for when each ewe can be expected to give birth (it happens nearly 5 ¬†months to-the-day after conception).

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Dudley smelled the ladies and got right to work as we were on our way out.

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