Our ewes and rams have had full health checks and have been fed well over the past 12 weeks to ensure peak body condition. They are now ready to meet!
As the days start to shorten, our ewes come into season and they are receptive to the ram for about 30 hours at a time, every 17 days. The ram can detect the hormonal changes in the ewes using receptors under his top lip; this is how he knows when to mate with each ewe, but the ewes will also seek out the ram.
Each ram is fitted with a raddle; a harness with a coloured wax block attached to the chest, which marks each ewe during mating. The wax block is replaced weekly with a darker coloured block, so that the colour of the most recent mating will over-write any previous matings. Once the ewe is pregnant, the ram will lose interest, so we can take the darkest colour as the date of conception. This way we know which ewes are pregnant and when their lambs are due. This is really important for us here as we have limited space in our lambing shed and ewes are only brought inside when they are within 3 weeks of their due date. It also helps us alter their diet during gestation to ensure healthy lambs.
The rams are trained to come over to a bucket of food to minimise stress to the flock. We check that the harness is not rubbing and tighten it if needed, as the rams are working so hard they tend to lose weight.
In our commercial flock we have 9 rams going to 450 ewes. The rare breed rams have a much easier job, as our largest rare breed flock is just 30 ewes strong.
The last of the rams should leave our ewes in mid November and our lambing season is due to start on the 14th February, just in time for when we re-open to the public.