Feb. 13 2020
From the Farm

The Most Significant Number for sheep folk is 145: the gestation period, the length of time, in days, between conception and birth. We Border Leicester folk think it might even be 144, and I am sure that there are breeds for which 150 seems more accurate. In Kansas’ Flint Hills, we stick to 145 and we use it to work back from the date which we think might be equally kind to the shepherd and the sheep involved; say, May 1st. May can produce its own rough winds, we know, but from mid-March on, our native and tame grasses have begun to be productive and likely more nutritious than at any later point in the year, so that pregnant ewes can approach birth in fine fettle and well-exercised.

So the bucks go in on December 6th.

With Border Leicesters, ewes generally cycle, that is, come into estrous, that is, be willing to breed around mid-September, so a prudent shepherd does what is necessary to get the rams away from the ewes by then. Some trouble is involved, of course, because one is creating a separate flock, rams only, which needs water, food, shelter, and care every bit as much as the ewe flock, and also because the desire to breed has appeared, in both flocks. Heads are butted, soft baas are heard, courtship is begun — and frustrated. Separation by two fences is safest.

Yesterday, February 9th, our dogs seemed a tumult of noise, starting mid-morning, focused on the lower night pen. Rhona, going on two years, was the first and she was incensed when the other dogs actually visited the pen, to the point that the shepherd went to see what was going on. Fife, the 150 pound plus Great Pyrenees came too. As you can see, lamb thought he’d like to inspect Fife, but his dam brought him back to resume their rest in the pale sunshine. Fife realized he was in over his head and moved off. He may have been amused but — except for the tongue — he was inscrutable.

Two and a half months. Hmm. The shepherd, reflecting on his role in this event, briefly considered constructing a contrivance based on Leap Year, but is happier reflecting that where there’s a will, there’s a way, that love conquers all, and that faint heart ne’er won fair lady.

Who the sire is we’ll never know, and Mom isn’t telling.


Copyright Jerry Wigglesworth, February, 2020