Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Just Take a Little Off the Top

Shearing the ram is one job NO ONE looks forward to…

It is a job that really MUST be done. The ram needs to be shorn to keep him cool.  This is important to his fertility come breeding season.  Heat can render a ram temporarily sterile and that would a waste of some great genetics and more than a little frustrating to the shepherds.

The Boss faces this job with some level of trepidation. He has worked with large animals long enough to know that extreme caution and LOTS of pre-planning are required. The reaction of a frightened animal can never be predicted.  He’s been butted by rams, run over by a bull, and knocked down by a llama.  The llama was the worst, not only did the Boss go down; he was accompanied by a metal gate and ME!  Not one of our finer moments. He has also had to body tackle sheep and once lassoed a pig, among other things. His concern is well-founded most understandable.

When the Boss seems the least bit tentative, it is unsettling.  MAJORLY unsettling.  Despite the fact that I find his infamous “ain’t a big deal to ME!” truly maddening at times, it is also reassuring.  I’m aware of the fact that I occasionally over-react, so when he downplays my concerns, it causes me to re-evaluate (most of the time...sometimes it just makes me crazy--er). But, when he doesn’t utter his standard line, when he seems concerned…then I get worried.

There is also the distant memory of a shearing long ago… We had just purchased two woolly sheep from a farm in Fauquier County.  The whole adventure had turned into somewhat of an ordeal before the Boss and Blondie decided it was time to shear the new sheep.  The project involving frightened, freaky sheep coupled with the tense relationship of dad and teenage daughter was probably doomed from the beginning.  I was in town during the episode and returned to find shorn sheep, very grumpy people, and the Boss with clipper marks INTO his arm.  Somehow, things got out of hand and he managed the “shear” himself.  I think he still has a scar.  I would like to avoid a repeat performance at all costs.

So, we arrived at shearing time this year with those memories lurking in the corners of our minds. 

Waylon - June 2011
Last year, Blondie sheared Waylon along with the ewes since he was still just a “baby”. 

Waylon - 2012

This year, he is about 300 pounds of wool, muscle and testosterone.  He is an impressive sight when he stands up on his feeder looking for his meals.

                Perhaps, that should be a DAUNTING sight…

We decided it was easier to take the shearing equipment to him rather than transport him to the barn.  I don’t think he will even fit in the little sheep hauler thing-y we used last year.  

The generator, clippers, scissors, oil, rope, halter, and other odds and ends were packed into the tractor bucket and we proceeded out back.  Once everything got set up, it would be a breeze.

We didn’t count on an audience…but there they were.  Milling around, uttering some sort of editorial comments, and looking for a handout, the ewes stayed there for the duration.

Waylon loves his food, so we gave him some grain, squeezed the gate down on him, put a halter on, and tied him to a post.  When the Boss turned the clippers on, Waylon flinched a little, but for the most part, he was quite well behaved.

While the approach was unconventional, (usually the sheep is put on its back) it worked quite well.  We were both glad to see that Waylon has a wool-less belly.  That makes shearing much easier, and the Boss didn’t have to worry about nicking any of the “important equipment” down there.

The shearing passed without major incident.  Waylon ended up with a small cut on his face since I overlooked a piece of wire when I cinched his face into the fencepost. The cut was superficial so there should be no worries there.

We were excited to see excellent confirmation revealed by the shearing.  We knew he was a good ram, but now we were more than a little impressed by his size and muscling.  It’s hard to tell what is under all that wool and the last time he was close-clipped, he was still very young.  The Boss just kept saying, “WOW…look at ‘im!” All of the doubt and second guessing from last year are just distant memories.  This year’s breeding season and subsequent lambing should be amazing.

A quick check of his hooves revealed they were in perfect condition. YAY!  Trimming hooves is generally my job, and I wasn’t looking forward to working on Waylon.  He is very testy about having his legs and feet touched. But, a ram MUST have good, solid, well-trimmed hooves, particularly on his back feet.  This is important for breeding season as he must repeatedly mount the ewes.  Good hooves are also a genetic pre-disposition and that is important for any offspring. Over the years we have had more than one ram whose hooves still give me nightmares. No worries with Waylon!

We cleaned up the wool, packed everything back in the tractor bucket, and went off to the next job. 

the AFTER shot...after a quick scissor trim and an overnight
rainwater rinse...
Waylon is looking MAAA-velous!
Man, that was more than a little anti-climactic!  
      Just the way we like it.

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