Do you remember when you were a young child and you would go into a store with your mom or dad and you would see something that you would like to take home, but couldn’t. Do you remember that longing in the pit of your stomach? Do you remember how you would find yourself scheming of ways to convince your parents to purchase this one item for you? Do you remember how you tried to convince others that this unattainable thing was not merely a fancy for more stuff to toss on your bedroom floor, but that you actually needed it for your own existence and life’s fulfillment? I found those feelings all rushing back to me as I walked into the barn housing the annual Bagg Auktion (Ram Auction) on Gotland island this September.
“It’s like Christmas for sheep people”, one of the shepherds whom we had spent hours with the previous day, told us. His face had a grin which stretched from ear to ear, and he almost seemed giddy as he fumbled the auction booklet which listed all of the rams that were for sale that day. I could tell he was anxious to get his hands wrist deep in fleeces and inspect all available rams. The large barn was filled with the best of Sweden’s Gotland sheep genetics. Truly, I had never seen such gorgeous sheep before.
Sweden hosts Lamb Evaluations each year where the sheep are evaluated on a point system for multiple categories such as body composition, fleece color, luster, and curl definition. Before the auction, these results are printed into a booklet for each ram that is for sale. Buyers may examine the scoring as they inspect each of the animals, making their selections for when the bidding takes place.
The event drew in farm families from all over Sweden, not just Gotland island. It reminded me somewhat of a neighborhood gathering, with much camaraderie and sharing a meal together before the business of bidding began. Livestock vendors were on hand to discuss fencing and equipment needs as well as nutrition and pelt processing. Shepherds of all ages attended to learn, to fellowship, and to buy.
We did not stay to the very end of the auction, but the next day, a shepherd told us that the highest priced ram brought in $8,000. We asked if he had been awarded the honor of purchasing this ram and he smiled and said, “No my purse is not that deep.” He told us that the lower priced rams sold for $1,000-$4,000. Honestly, I would have gladly taken home any of the rams present that day.
Photographs by Emily Goodling.