Thursday, November 30, 2006

bits and pieces

Two things to mention today....aha er...tonight.
There have been some scattered posts about rams and their desire to ram.
Yes, I agree, they are called rams for a reason. I just want to remind all you breeders that an adult ram is a potential killer. Yes, even the ones who come up for a pet through the fence wagging their tails.
I have found the time around breeding season changes the normally easy-going shetland rams into possible problems. as I say...not as I do.
Do not enter a breeding pen without having hold of your ram before you go in....and if you are going in with an adult should use common sense and have someone available to help you in case you slip, or are hit. May I remind you again....your adult ram could kill.
I have a problem ram....hopefully only one. He has always taken an opportunity to hit me....usually not an angry hit...just a big tap as if to say he is bigger than I am. I moved this ram into the back pastures at breeding time on a halter....he walked like a gentleman...and when we reached the creek, I allowed him to lag behind. Yup, that's where he hit me the behind.
Fortunately, I did not fall. So I left him for a month without breeding him....then finally brought him up to a breeding pen. Now, when I open a breeding pen, I let girls choose their rams. If they have no relationship, and I consider their mating a good one for other reasons....I open the gate and let them in with their lover-boy. This ram was doing pretty well attracting girls, and I held his horn and pulled him aside several times as another girl walked in his open gate.
OK....I got careless.....he still had a couple of ripe girls who were still happy with him the day I needed to move him into bachelor quarters again. My husband stood at the gate as I walked in with my halter and reached forward for his horn. The ram never even moved to warn me.....just leaped forward, off the ground, and hit me in the middle. Higher or lower, and there could have been a serious problem with vital organs. Let me say again....there was no warning, he didn't even blink. Just hit. OK, maybe a little extra tummy saved me from an injury. That's no excuse. I made a mistake....I was careless.....I could have been seriously injured...or if I had fallen he might have finished the job. It wasn't his was mine....I should have waited to catch his horn before I went into his pen. At least I did have another person there...but the ram was so fast that my helper was shocked too. I will say that I watched with a little satisfaction while that ram was getting his bell rung in the ram pen. Now don't say, I didn't warn you.

We here in Missouri are in a winter type storm mode. We spent a couple of days getting people food...cutting wood, and running extra well. At dusk we had over 3 inches of rain, but it wasn't yet freezing. This morning, when I saw the water running, I broke up a few breeding pens to get the girls into the barn....I caught a couple of ram lambs and threw them into a pen in the barn too. I do have one ram lamb who will not come close enough to catch him...he has plenty of tarp over head....and will just have to stay outside. The old rams have an over head roof...but no walls....their pen has a flood-control dam and pond area...which has been overflowing all day. I brought them a little hay tonight, they sure don't need any water.
I have used more meds the last week than I have all year. With the cold wet weather, everytime I turn around someone is coughing. During the day, lots of girls stood out in the cold rain looking for grass, and eating from a hay bale in the close pasture. I fed hay inside twice....and finally at dusk, I closed the girls' gate....they have plenty of cold air blowing through the barn....but I would prefer to keep them from becoming frozen popsicles over night. You just know some of them are stubborn enough to lay there in the rain all night.
After I came in and changed into dry wear....I looked out and saw a couple of ewe lambs running in the rain. I had missed them under the I had to go out and get them into the barn much for being dry. It is still pouring.
We built a cattle panel and tarp shelter across the creek yeaterday for the rams and ram lambs to gain some dry shelter. Today, I could see through the trees that some of them stood out of the pouring rain. There is no way to get across the creek when it is running here. We had no mail....and no car went by all day either....I guess the low water crossing must be running pretty high down stream from here. North of us, there is already freezing sleet.....I assume when the heavy rains go through here we will get some freezing weather too. Hoping you are warm and dry....and your sheep are all fat and happy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

going to naile

Yes, I did it....I went to a really big show with my little sheep. No, I didn't get a blue ribbon....but I did come home with some third through eighth places. Which considering the young age and size of my babies was pretty good.
I do want to recommend the "really big shows". I had a blast watching the big sheep, and the other livestock shows. There were lovely, friendly, people. I enjoyed meeting everyone. Folks even went out of their way to help, and show us the way the show at naile worked. Didn't seem cut-throat to me at all. If you ever get the opportunity to go to a big show....take could be a lifetime experience! I was so happy to be able to show my little sheep and help establish a show at naile for our breed. While I am on the subject....I need some children.....we want a big youth show there next year....anyone have some children who can hold on to a sheep? Mine seem to be all grown.
I did come away with some fears for the shetland breed as we take a spot at similar shows....concerns about size and showing "in the grease".... big concerns about new unethical breeders growing our breed for the blue ribbons. Don't think I am talking about our present show breeders....they may raise sheep on the large size....but they are not out-side our standard....yet.....However, there are, breeders on the show circut....who will consider anything legal or illegal in their quest for ribbons, you remember painting the roses red? Now they paint the sheep black and white.....I think our board of directors should be considering the pressures on our breed for bigger and bigger sized sheep for shows....and try to preserve the smaller size too.

No.....if I have to raise those big shetlands to win blue ribbons, I don't want any, thank you. I'll be like Gail, just trailing my little string of little sheep behind me. Thanks, also, to Gail, who was so helpful in the ring. She did have it figured out that with my smaller sheep, I should place behind her....which didn't always work out. Sorry Gail.
I thought for the first time as a breed at naile....our shetlands caused quite a stir. They were as always, cute, and puffy....some more than others....we showed them with almost all of their wool....which was unusual in an arena where lincolns and merinos are washed....combed and fitted.
Lord, preserve our little sheep from the fitting work....those poor big sheep are shampooed in freezing rain....sheared half way on those fitting stands...where they baa constantly, some, mis-treated if they have the stupidity to fall off.....then pounded with wire combs and sheared again, painstakingly, into fanciful shapes that are supposed to cover up their flaws.
I don't want to find every shetland breeder shearing over their sheep before shows. Trimming belly wool and stray me....seems the next step to conforming to the show circuts. Some of those show breeders will do anything to their sheep to get a name for watch who you sell to folks, or our sheep will be the next to fall beneath the shearing frenzy. I did see a few show breeders clamboring for the "big show shetlands" there.....I could see the wheels turning as they asked for certain sheep.....they could throw a few shetlands under the giant sheep already in their trailers....and get a few more blue ribbons and premiums at their shows.
It will take all of our ethics to avoid growing bigger and bigger shetlands to win blue ribbons. What a shame it would be if we preserved the size and colors on these little sheep for all these years only to waste all those efforts in a scramble to win.
I don't believe a shetland ram lamb should weigh 80 pounds in November.....what happened to the "small sheep" of our breed standard? Am I being silly on this point? Isn't an 80 pound fall lamb a "meat sheep"?
While I am on the subject....what is with this "combing" of our shetlands? Why can't we walk our sheep out of the pasture and into a show ring without what I call "back-combing"? Why don't our breeders want to show off the natural look of the breed?....well, this stupid looking combing does seem to make the sheep look fuzzyer, so if they want to comb and fluff their shetlands to win a blue ribbon...go ahead....I'm standing my easy care ground with my sheep.
Maybe we should have shetland judges look at sheep in the field?....So they know what a real shetland looks like? Ok, I am being silly on this point....they all look different.....clean sheep look better....and mine seem to like rolling in the mud. Oh well.....the next step to combing sheep seem to be trimming their curls to the same length.....I sure hope we won't go that route.
I will say that all the sheep at naile were judged by their size and length first....their wool quality hardly seemed to go into the equasion at all.....and these sheep were already as big as horses!
I disagreed with the colored wool judge....who didn't even touch the merinos...since they were smaller then the other colored-horse-breeds there. No wonder the shetlands can't compete with the naturally color wool class!
Well, we are lucky as a breed, to have the chance to show in such a place....and I was lucky to be able to go there too.....I hope many of you will make an effort to see what these shows offer our breed.
Got to go kiss my little sheep.