Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow, But Don’t Come Back

Today I l289.Zuluearned yet another valuable lesson about my sheep: When you wean a ram lamb by removing him from the ewe flock, don’t put him back into the ewe flock.

A buyer is coming tomorrow morning to pick up two ewes and a weanling ram lamb (13 weeks old). I need to have the lamb and ewes all in one area for loading. Because I’d rather not try to move the ram flock into the sorting pen in the dark and cold tomorrow morning (and perhaps even a blizzard), I decided to move the weanling ram today while it was light and warm. He could overnight with the ewes and say hi to his mom (he was weaned two weeks ago). It was a good plan.

As soon as I put him in the ewes’ pen, I knew I’d made a serious mistake. The ewes seriously wanted to injure him. Even his mother joined in the attack. I’ve never seen them deliberately chase and run down another sheep before, but these girls had murder in mind. And they wouldn’t stop. They ran that poor little guy around and around, butting him and ganging up on him when he fell down. It was very clear that I needed to so something quickly or the lamb would be hurt.

That left me choosing between two no-win situations: 1) put the lamb back with the other rams and start all over tomorrow morning in the dark and snow and cold to separate him out again; 2) put the lamb in an area where the ewes can’t attack him. I opted for choice #2. He isn’t happy, but he’s safe. He’s under the same roof as the ewes so at least he can feel the flock’s presence (a sheep always needs to have other sheep nearby or they become very stressed).

Why is this important? No matter how long one is around animals, they surprise you. And they teach you, if you’ll pay attention and let them. I’m so surprised at the ewes’ behavior, especially this little ram’s mother. I had thought they would be glad to be back together given the trauma they both went through during weaning (see Weaning Day). The senior ewe in the flock was the leader of the attack, and that is less surprising because she still has two lambs nursing. Barbados Blackbelly ewes are ferocious mothers and will do battle to protect their lambs. I just didn’t realize they would do battle against a ram lamb recently one of their own.

And Barbados Blackbelly ewes are good teachers. I’ve learned this lesson well…and promise never to do it again.