Sheep Breeding

I guess I was wrong: Ash had not been bred yet. As of this morning she has been. I am assuming she will take which will mean an January 30th birthing date. Dates are not exact with sheep since they seem to have some control over their birth.  There is a 5 day window sheep can lamb. In my experience they tend to lamb when they feel its safest thus Ash waiting until she could escape Rosie the pig (predator) and lambing in the woods within an hour of letting her out of the barn. Polly seemed to wait, too, until I got home from work. She was having contractions when I left, but didn’t really get going until I was back 10 hours later. The first flock of sheep did the same: they seemed to lamb only on days my ex had off from work as if they had some day planner that included weather and shepherds availability. Of course, this is my limited experience with small flocks.

I have been in a bit of a conundrum: I’ve been trying to dry the girls off which means restricting their feed.  But I also want to encourage multiple births…which means fattening them up with a little extra grain everyday. So what have I chosen to do? Well…keep them on pasture, give a tiny bit of grain but not enough to encourages milk production and cross my fingers I get twins.  I thought by drying them off now I could focus their energy on breeding, but I don’t think thats a great idea. Next year I think I will continue to milk and feed heavily while breeding. Cows can do it, no reason why it wouldn’t work on sheep. Then again, cows only need to make 1 calf and sheep…well we want 2-3 out of them.

The mating ritual in sheep is fairly gentle. Before ewes come into heat the ram will approach the ewe, smell/taste the air (flehmen), lick his lips (like a perv!) and try to mount. She she is not in heat the ewe just walks away, if she is interested she will turn to face the ram and give consent. Yeah, sheep give consent. After the act they will often nuzzle each other. Foreplay, consent AND cuddling?! Yes…….I’m going to let you all choose your punchline for that setup before i say something that gets me in trouble.

Sometimes he will chase after and this can lead to amusing Benny Hill like scenes across the barn-yard. This happens more towards actual estrus or if ewe leaves the pasture then comes back. Even more rarely will he headbutt the ewes. It doesn’t do anything other than make the ewes try to avoid the ram, but sexual frustration, yo! He just can’t help himself! Or something.

Speaking of sexual frustration rams start getting ready months before mating. It starts with fighting with other rams to create a pecking order. Then they get with the ewes and wait.

and wait.

uuuuuggg……

It was not uncommon to see the ram hitting his head against a tree repeatedly for minutes (hours?) on end, just keeping in shape in case someone comes along to challenge him and his ewes. He knocked down a few old fence posts shortly before Polly came into heat. Nor is it uncommon for me to greet the animals when I get home and find the ram with bark or other crushed material on his face. Khoresh seemed calm and happy after having servicing Ash for a whole day…but I swear the next morning he woke up thinking “ANOTHER YEAR! I HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER YEAR! RAAAAAAA!!!!!” and then proceeded to knock over an 8 inch wood post. Battering ram indeed.

So now we just wait for the lambs to breed. Mooney is hitting “puberty” I flipped him over to trim his hooves this weekend and saw he was getting “hair down there”

Well, he already had hair down there, but it was soft, fluffy curly stuff. Now that is slicking out and being replaced by shorter, coarser hair. Thank goodness, not something I’d want to have to shear!

There we go: more than you ever wanted to know about the sex lives of sheep!

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