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Living with Rams

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We have learned a few new things this fall about living with rams, and the rams have learned a few tricks about living with us as well. If you asked my two Gotland rams what they thought about breeding season here on VT Grand View Farm, they would tell you that we do not have enough ewes. Then, they would proceed to tell you how stupid we are to think that they can not jump, crawl, hurl, climb, or squeeze through just about any fence.

Plywood to keep wandering eyes from peering at the ewes.
Plywood to keep wandering eyes from peering at the ewes.

I have owned rams for about 13 years now, first Romney rams, and now Gotland rams. I am here to testify that Gotland rams are unlike any ram I have ever had on our farm in the past. Let’s just say that they are passionate about their job, and dislike anything that gets in their way of doing that job. They focus intently, and with much enthusiasm on their goal of breeding each and every ewe.

What would we do without hog panels and baling twine?
What would we do without hog panels and baling twine.

One glance at our ram fence line and you can guess that we have been in a mode of destruction and repair over the past few weeks. Rams destroy, we repair. Given the season, there has been no time to invest in and install more attractive, effective fences. Instead, in the spirit of Vermont ingenuity, we have been fortifying our ram quarters as best we can with materials on hand. As soon as we think we have won our battle, one of our two rams finds yet another weak point in the fence. They proceed to work that fragile area until it too gives way.

Franz
Franz

This breeding season, Evret has jumped an electric fence with a charge of 4,000 volts. He was then put in quarantine in the barn until we could move his harem of ewes further away from the ewes he was longing for. While in the barn, he proceeded to stand on his hind legs to reach a window that was about 5 feet high, breaking the window pane and heaving himself up in an effort to jump out of the window. Two days ago, Evret climbed a 5 foot woven wire fence, as though it were a ladder, to hurl himself over the top, in hopes to join me and the dog as we worked our little group of Romney ewes in the neighboring field. While all of Evert’s antics are quite impressive, it has made keeping him where he belongs a bit challenging.

Evret - Escape Artist
Evret – Escape Artist

Out of desperation, I emailed one of the shepherds I met on Gotland island. He keeps many rams and I thought surely he would have some words of wisdom to share. His response:

You have to keep the rams happy, which means….more ewes, about 100 each will be fine. If that’s not possible, the rams have to be so far away from the ewes so they can not see, hear, or smell them. If they have started to get out like that, they have to be in a stall in the barn where they can’t get out, so they can calm down. 

I wrote back thanking him for his advice, and asking him to ship me 200 Gotland ewes-pronto! All this to say that I have learned a couple important things this breeding season…I need more ewes and I need stronger and taller fences.

Epilogue:

I must give Evret some credit here. He is a complete gentleman, kind to his ewes and to me. When I go into his pasture, he backs away from me. He never challenges me, just my fence line!

If you are contemplating purchasing a ram to add to your flock, I would suggest reading this post first:

Three Things You Need to Know About Living with Rams

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4 Responses

  1. abigail mcenroe
    | Reply

    I have had rams for over 50 years, but yours take the prize. The good side, looks like the Gotlands will survive and multiplie. Good luck, be careful, and thanks for being honest.

    • Kim Goodling
      | Reply

      Yes, yes! I am hoping for lots of little Gotland lambs this spring!

  2. carol Thiessen
    | Reply

    We have rambouillet and wanted to get another ram. 2 years ago we bought a 5 year old ram and he has been so sweet and gentle so we thought lets get another one. So husband and daughter came home with a one year old ram. First thing it did was jump fences and gates when they tried to catch him at the owners home. Then he jumped our fence and was in with the other ram. finally we have him in a stall with very high walls…now what? After living with these quiet, non jumping sheep for a couple of years I suddenly feel as though we have a wild colt on our hands. Do we hobble him?

    • Kim Goodling
      | Reply

      All sheep like to have a friend. If he is kept alone, he may constantly try to get to the other sheep. You can also have some training sessions with him. If you have electric fencing, you need to teach him to respect the fence. If you have a trained border collie, you could use the border collie to train him to stay in. We did this once with a ram lamb that kept crawling under the fence. It just took one time of our border collie reminding him of his boundaries and he never crawled under again. If the ram continues to escape, he just may not be the right ram for you.

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