The stage is set: on the one hand, five rams in a pasture which is separated from the ewes by an empty pasture, and on the other, ten ewes chosen to produce lambs next Spring.
The Fair Maidens
Well, sorta. One of the five rams is Ike who was Mike’s travel companion all the way from Oregon. He is a wether. He doesn’t know he’s a wether so he can be as eager as the next guy, but he’ll never sire a lamb. And another is Muscles, born in 2013, the biggest of his generation, who was vasectomized so he’ll never sire a lamb either. He’s called a “teaser” in the profession because his presence and activity in group of ewes will stimulate their coming into season. He is even more eager than the next guy. His father, Mike, has many offspring in our wool flock and is potent and available; and the other two are Brown Mom’s Son and Mr. Bradish, both natural colored sheep who reliably produce fleeces weighing 13 pounds of beautiful wool. Mr. Bradish is taller than BM’s Son and a whisker longer, but because we don’t produce lambs for slaughter his body conformation doesn’t count with us as it might otherwise. Only one ram is chosen though, not just because he is genetically compatible with the designated ewes, but because two rams would tear each other up: buck rams line up like buck deer do and charge each other. Broken necks are not unknown. So Mr. Bradish is the guy. The rest we will keep in the second field away, nursing their sorrows. Next year, fellows. Maybe.
We had decided to use six natural colored ewes, genetically compatible with Mr. Bradish because last year he produced sixteen natural colored lambs all but one of which were male and we want to increase our proportion of ewes so colored. One should not say “black sheep” because the wool varies from silver to grey flannel to dark brown to almost coal black and it changes a bit every year. Jim Gerrish, an excellent grazing authority from Idaho, pointed out to us that the best trait to breed for may well be an animal’s ability to thrive on less than optimum forage; that is, who looks best at the end of a summer on grass? So we marked several and when we separated out the breeders, we pulled the best four, all white and all with good wool. So we may expose all ten to Mr. Bradish, or maybe just six. The ten are being “flushed” just now, “flushing” being a word of art arising from putting a ewe on a rising plane of nutrition to encourage her to propagate. No doubt the word started off as “fleshing”, and they are fleshing indeed on a stockpiled fescue pasture not grazed since May, green and lush, fertilized by last Spring’s grazers, not with chemicals.
The rest of the flock, the wool flock, are ewes and wethers. Some of the latter think it’s good to go through the motions and some of the ewes do too, but all they will produce next Spring will be wool.
Our grandsons arrive for Spring vacation on April 5th to help out with lambing. The gestation period is 143 days. So on November 14th, Mr. Bradish goes to work. You might say that The Buck Starts Here. And on April 5th or so we hope we will be seeing several little creatures, their wool all wet and shiny, lurching to their feet, determined to search out the milk supply.
Jerry Wigglesworth, © October, 2014
New weave structure development using our private reserve wool.