Friday, May 25, 2007

It takes a mighty good ram to be better than none

Actually, the statement on a page of last year's Mary Engelbreit desk calendar was, "It takes a mighty good man to be better than none." True in both cases, I'd say.

Yesterday I looked at rams and ram lambs that may be available to lease next fall. It was discouraging. The nice-looking lamb above is by a moorit fellow with fatal horns (his trimmed horns are a bit difficult to see in the picture below), and two other ram lambs are out of the fatal-horn ram's dam (and one of those has iffy-looking horns at less than three months of age). That left one very nice yearling of Lois' breeding (he's the guy at left below), but he's Ag and closely related to my nicest ewe. Sigh. I still have some other breeders to ask about leasing rams, and continue to consider buying my own ram.

Horns are tricky. A Shetland breeder in Scotland keeps all his rams until at least two years of age to evaluate, as he's seen it take that long for horns to go bad, or straighten out. I have heard of very few North American breeders who consistently do that. As a result, there are a significant number of rams that are used before their horns can be accurately evaluated, thus sometimes perpetuating "bad horn genetics." I'm not innocent here. Last year I sold my ram lamb, iffy horns and all, to a lady who wanted a white ram for breeding and would take him with no horn guarantee. (His horns ARE still fine.) The more I've thought about this, the more I want to avoid that scenario in the future if at all possible. For me, that means not using a ram with bad horns, obviously, but also avoiding a ram with bad horns in his background. (Those sneaky genes have a way of popping up down the line.) So I will keep looking for "Mr. Right" for my girls, one that has the best combination of fleece, conformation, good horns/absence of horns, and attitude that I can find and afford. What if I can't find him or can't afford him if I do find him? Please refer to title.

That's it for now at . . .


Tina T-P said...

I'm sure there will be many handsome guys at Black Sheep, Michelle, so don't dispair. We appreciate the fact that you are being careful with your horn genetics - Don't you wish we could get K&R take Skittles on a little road trip :-) T.

Kathy said...

Or what about a Skittles son? Don't rule that out, Dear Friend! :)

I agree with your statements about breeding rams early. I am a believer in the older rams as they've had the proper genetics to actually get that old in the first place. Becca and I have discussed this as well - she was telling me that her grandfather would ONLY use older rams who had proven themselves. Not a bad way to approach breeding sheep at all and they way I will go. I have decided that my ram labs will probably be kept until they prove themselves worthy to be breeders or they go to good homes of understanding people who know more about ram selection. (You should hear what people have said around here - I'm convinced I am alone in this area of the country)
Skit said he'd love to go on a Road Trip but is worried about who would take care of his paramours here...he mentioned that next year he gets all four of them! WaHoo!

Kathy said...

And I meant Northern Arizona - I didn't want to include Beryl, Rena or Lauren in my blanket statement about being alone here. I was refering to the attitudes of some sheep people I've met up here.

Juliann said...

I talked to one Indiana breeder at the Michigan show a few years ago (Bernie Cripe) who doesn't even offer ram lambs for sale until after their horns have cleared the head. This means holding onto them for a while, and passing up potential sales on young ram lambs.
Not a bad practice if one's priority is eliminating fatal horns in the flock.

shepherdchik said...

I agree Juliann. By the way, I still have Cochise over here waiting for someone to take him Michelle!

Tammy said...

Hi Michelle,
Its hard to deal with a ram when you have limited space and want to keep him seperate from the ewes. I think this is why alot of people want ram lambs. Most of them don't start getting overly 'determined' until they are over a year old. I've been concerned too, about the fatal horns issue as it does seem like many many ram lambs are being used with no idea what their horns may turn out like. You have to wonder how many fatal horns are out there if we aren't maturing the rams first. Since I'm not really set up for it, I don't keep ram lambs and have only matured out one ram from my stock (who has excellent horns!)--the rest end up as wethers and have all went to fiber/pet homes. Its just another one of those rock and hard place things, I guess. I'll be praying for you to find a good leaseable or buyable ram! The gulmogets would have gotten me right off the bat--I would LOVE to have a gulmoget ram. ;-)