As you might have known, we have been looking for a home for Gideon, our lovely Shetland ram. He’s just a bit much for us to manage properly. As a big, powerful mature ram, he can throw his weight about easily and likes to head butt things like posts and barns and people. But at the same time, he loves to be petted, get cookies and walks nicely on a halter and lead. He was bottle raised and very nicely socialized as a youngster, which we have come to learn is not the best thing for a breeding ram. When they are very comfortable around humans, they can be a little pushy and ultimately, dangerous, if you are not very careful with them. Never trust a mature ram. Even though Shetlands are not a large breed sheep, he could still hurt you if he scored a direct hit on your back or knees. Something that we just don’t want to have to worry about here on our little homestead.
We’re hopeful that he managed to do the hokey-pokey with our ewes, and yes, we even saw a few amorous moments here and there with the girls. Our fingers are crossed for lambs in the spring! Our plans are not for a huge breeding program or a lamb operation, rather I would like to grow and manage my own lovely fiber flock of homegrown raised sheep. I believe our acreage and it’s subdivided pastures could support a flock of about 10 to 12 animals easily. My plan is to keep a few of the ewe lambs, perhaps one ram lamb and then sell the remainder, if we are so blessed. We already have several people waiting in anticipation of our extra sweet little lambs!
Eventually, I would like to build a strong, ram proof enclosure that we might be able to keep a ram safely and comfortably. But you should see the ram shack paddock! Oh my goodness! He has pounded out a ram head shaped design in the tube gate, busted up most of the fencing and rubbed a big wear mark on the corner tree that helps to make the enclosure! We have been using pallets and wire and big wood spools to try and barricade him in and it’s not pretty! Looks like we are preparing for a zombie attack and building up this rubble barricade to hide behind!
A good portion of his angst comes from the fact that it’s breeding season. He was in with our ewes for almost 8 weeks, in the weed pasture, as we call it. To be honest, Gideon and the girls did a great job of cleaning out all the weeds and making it pretty nice. We’ll be reseeding it in the early spring with clover and hoping it will catch good. But the problem was, it was not quite secure enough and he was getting out from time to time. Thankfully, he would get into another pasture area, so we didn’t have any major escapes, but it was also dangerous to have him deciding when he’d like to be out and about. We decided that the girls were properly covered through at least two heat cycles, so it was time to return him to his lovely paddock in the middle of the farm, and the girls to join the two whethers again and make our flock complete. Gideon decided that he was not done with being King of the Flock and thus the troubles began. I don’t blame him at all, and he’s never been mean spirited, just being a ram! If you wanted to stand there and pet him and give him treats all day long, he would have been super pleased with that, wagging his little tail and just adoring you. However, the moment you stepped away and ended the love fest, he was pretty annoyed and would take it out on the nearest post or gate. Another problem is that his paddock was RIGHT in the middle of all the activity and traffic of the farm. So it added to his frustration, seeing us walking by and not giving him attention. And he was right up against the other sheep paddock and hay feeder, so he would get agitated with the other animals trying to steal his hay and he trying to steal theirs!
When we build a new ram paddock, sometime in the future, we will definitely situate it differently. It will be slightly off the beaten path. And most likely with big heavy telephone pole cutoffs for posts. And heavy wire cattle panels for the fencing instead of just woven wire fence. And preferably with direct access to a strongly fenced pasture. Rather than bringing the ram to the ewes, we will bring the ewes to the ram, if that makes sense. Having Gideon has been a huge learning experience, one we would have gladly repeated.
We found the very best of situations for him! He’ll be living about 5 miles around the bend from us! In fact, we go by there at least once or twice a week. A fellow saw our post on Craigslist and he was in need of a ram and had several lovely little ewes to trade! Perfect situation! He’s got a small homestead as well, about 3 acres, and raises sheep and milk goats! Pretty neat. Chickens too, but then out here, that’s kind of a given. Oh yes, and California rabbits for meat. Very nice fellow. He even has a wonderful little pony for his children! We love pony people. And he deals in hay and has offered us as much as we might need for $2 a bale cheaper than we are getting! How can this new friendship go wrong?
We brought Gideon over this afternoon, of course, riding in the back of the station wagon. He really doesn’t mind driving in the car, in fact, I think he rather enjoys it. Maggie sat in the back seat with a couple pieces of rye bread and a good hold on his halter. (We didn’t want any busted windows, but he was a perfect passenger.) He looked around and watched the traffic a bit, nibbled bread from Maggie the stewardess, and pretty much the ride was over before it began. It’s really rather funny to see a big horned ram jump out of the back of old Blue and look around at his new farm as if to say, “Hmmm, pretty nice, I approve.” The fellow was surprised and I hope delighted. I think was he was expecting some wild out of control animal, but really, he’s not. Like I said, it’s mixed feelings about finding him a new home, because he can be so charming, but yet, he is just a little much for us. We’re learning. Sometimes you just have to say, this is not quite working out for our situation. I never would have just sent him to market, not with his beautiful fleece and such lovely pedigree, but yet, it was clear he was a handful for us and we needed either to spend the money very soon and make him a safer paddock, or rehome him with someone that already has a better situation. Our neighbor has that better situation. And is super pleased with him.
It was sort of funny to see Gideon greet his new harem. Five beautiful little Shetland ewes and a HUGE Suffolk whether that was at least double Giddy’s size! Gideon took one look at the ewes, rolled his lip in approval and then took a good look at the whether and decided that if brute force would not work, he would just win him over with attitude. He busted right over to the Suffolk and began to harass him around the big pen like a determined border collie. The Suffolk was clearly intimidated and around and around they went with Gideon in hot pursuit and the ewes following for the fun of it all. Finally the big boy stopped and stood his ground and the two had a little face off, just standing and staring, each sizing the other up. Gideon cracked heads with him once and then the Suffolk backed off into a corner and Gideon declared himself the winner and went over to check out his new ladies. It was rather funny to watch, the poor big Suffolk weather was just not too thrilled but had given up his false leadership of the pack to this usurper without much of a fight. The fellow told me that the big sheep was destined for the freezer. Just hadn’t had the time to do the deed and send him to finishing school just yet. Poor fellow. Such is the possibilities for neutered males on the farm landscape…
He said to pick out a girl that we liked and I knew immediately that I was in love with a sweet little yearling ewe that I plan to call Bridget. Another good Scottish lass name and will go nicely with Molly, Angus and Fergus! She’s a moorit ewe with blaget markings, which is to say, she’s a fawn brown in color with spots of brown around her eyes and a white bald face. I think she might be spotted as well under her little shaggy wool coat. He said that he had gotten her and another from a young lady at the fair and our little Bridget was just so sweet and tame. Jessy snapped a couple pictures of her with Maggie and she was just fine with being held and petted. She’s little! Just like Fergus when he was a yearling, but I’m sure she will grow a wee bit more. Since she will be two in the spring, I decided to leave her for a month with Gideon and see if we might be able to have her bred with the other ewes. She’s likely to go into heat with his presence as will the others and we might as well give it a shot. The fellow was fine with that, and we’ll probably pick her up at the end of the month, in a few weeks. Part of me wanted to bring her home today, but it’s good. We can always go and visit her!
I think this is perhaps the best situation to be had. Gideon has new girls to bother and a safer enclosure with a full grown man to tend him. It’s likely he will be a little more respectful of a man as I have often heard happens. The fellow gets a wonderful, beautiful specimen of ram for his ewes, and we get a lovely little unrelated gal for our bloodlines. And perhaps another lamb or two out of the deal in the spring. We also talked that perhaps in the fall again, we can have Gideon come over to visit our flock in the midst of breeding season when he’s done with his new gals. SInce neither of us have a huge operation and flock, Gideon can easily take care of the 10 or 12 ladies without overdoing it. And we don’t have to worry as much about him getting loose or hurting someone. It’s just a win win situation for everyone.
I will miss him certainly. It was fun to go out and visit him out back, seeing his little tail wagging and his handsome charming demeanor. And since it seems that we will be getting our hay from his new owner now, I’ll be able to see the big lunk often and see how he’s doing and give him a little love and attention. And hopefully, we will have lots of little Gideons romping around our pastures in the spring. I just can’t wait to bring Bridget home to meet her new flockmates, I think she will fit in just nicely. And I’m excited to find a close source of goat milk to try and see about making a bit of goat cheese and learning more about milking and tending milk goats. I really would like a milk animal, but I’m just afraid of the time commitment each and every day. Perhaps we’ll be able to learn more and help out some to see how we like it and all with our new pal and his lovely herd. Just an awesome new opportunity to learn and see how things work out. A happy day for sure!