Most of our rams are separated from their ewes for much of the year. They will only live together from late September to mid November, and this period is called ‘tupping’. This is when our rams have to work hard and ‘cover’ all of the ewes they are put to. Sheep have a gestation period of 5 months, so when February comes around and we open to the public again, we will be hoping for our first lambs.
Before this happens however, there is a lot of preparation for both parties. Each will be health checked and wormed with teeth, legs and feet given a good look over. It is important that they can get around and eat well for the months ahead. The ewes get well and truly pampered, given free reign over the best grazing pastures for the 4 weeks before tupping. This makes sure they are in great condition and encourages them to release more eggs. Poor body condition can really reduce ovulation rate, so it is essential that the ewes recover well from the past breeding season. We are hoping that each ewe will have twins but inevitably, some will have singles and many will have multiples. We also check udder health; they will need both sides working well to rear healthy lambs.
The boys are also given extra feed, as they usually lose weight during tupping…well, they are working very hard! They need to be in peak condition before they meet the girls. Each ram will be condition-scored 12 weeks before breeding. This gives us enough time to correct any under or overweight boys. It is also important to check the rams for sores on the chest and give the testes a full MOT every season.
This year we have bought a new ram to add to our flock. François is an 18 month old Ile de France ram and will be used as a terminal sire (his lambs are destined for the table). He will be seen with his girls from the farm safari tractor very soon.