So its all arranged. On February 28th a (hopefully) nice man is coming to give our 22 ewes an internal scan so we can know firstly if they are in lamb and secondly whether they are carrying singles, twins or triplets. After two sheep cycles of 17 days each during which the rams were in with the ewes, readers might consider the first piece of information a no-brainer - of course they are in lamb! Not necessarily so since as we all know the course of true love rarely runs smoothly and I am begining to wonder if my rather tongue-in-cheek comments made in an earlier blog about frozen sheep testicles might have a grain of truth.
You see we donned our two rams Frenchman Jean-Claude and Englishman Rangemaster in their breeding harnesses, applied the yellow rayon and sent them out, each to a group of 11 ewes. Jean-Claude went straight to work - oh la la. Rangemaster however, rushed about in ever decreasing circles, grunting loudly. Honestly, he might just as well have been wearing a bowler hat and carry a briefcase and brollie. Exactly 17 days later (after the first ewe cycle) we got the sheep in to see how they had been marked. The yellow shadow on the backs of the ewes was sort of there with Jean-Claude's ladies but when it came to the Englishman's wives, the results were inconclusive to say the least. We changed the crayon to red and sent the sheep back out into the fields. 11 days later, the majority of Jean-Claude's ewes were sporting unmistakably red backsides - job done French style. Rangemaster's women - again rather inconclusive. Things were not looking good for the Englishman. We took him away from his ewes, sent them in with the Frenchman and left Rangemaster all alone in a field. He went nuts. Now when a hormone-hyped 120kgs ram goes nuts it is a sight to behold. He rushed up and down along the fence trying to rejoin the flock, he clambered over a pedstrian gate and got caught in brambles in no-mans land bewteen the fences separating two fields, he bellowed like a wounded bull, he rushed at Bella the Collie, sending her flying. Something had to be done. I called our sheep partner Andy. He swiftly brought 10 of what he calls his naughties - commercial ewes who sport appalling manners like learning to break through electic fencing. Marked for that big lamb chop in the sky (because of their bad manners which Andy says they pass onto their lambs and he cannot be having that), Rangemaster's alarming circumstances provided a reprieve for the 10 naughties. They arrived and lo and behold, Rangemaster rushed at them and got on the job.
So here we are waiting for news of how many lambs we can expect in May and how many will be born wearing berets as opposed to bowlers. It also remains to be seen how many naughty commercial lambs will be born. I am secretly hoping for a lot of these guys. In my sheep book, naughty goes with smart and I find Andy's 10 delightful. They are curious, friendly and generally much more aware of the world than the not-naughty commercials. With their spunky personalities and Rangemaster's determination, the resulting lambs could be very interesting indeed.