What could a vial of cologne POSSIBLY have to do with a couple of rams on the day after Christmas?
Today marked another of those “annual events” on our farm. Each year around Thanksgiving we “marry” the rams and their ewes, and each year shortly after Christmas, weather permitting, we bring their relationships to a screeching halt.
Today was that day.
All of the ewes seem to be bred. We usually wait about 3 weeks after we witness a breeding to make sure a ewe does not come back into heat. Once the last 3 week period has passed, it’s time to pull out the rams and send them off to their man cave. None of the ewes came back into heat this year — all hopefully were bred on the first take!
Here are the hopefully bred ewes, now all combined and reaquainting themselves with each other, and establishing who’s now in charge.
There were a few initial arguments, but they were easily resolved over a nice pile of fresh hay.
Removing the rams from their harems is a bit of work, but the real work comes with reintroducing the rams to each other! For rams, their life is all about smells. They capture odor molecules from the air on their upper lip and curl it up to their nostrils to pull those molecules to their vomeronasal organ, an accesory sensory organ in their nasal passage.
Of course they gather those smells from bodily secretions mostly, so though watching them take in a new smell could be compared to watching a wine snob sample a fine Cabernet, it’s really disgusting and nothing at all like it.
So now we come to the cologne. The past two years of reintroducing rams we’ve learned from mistakes. Year one saw one of the rams “ram” right through the fence to get to the other ram. We stupidly thought we’d introduce them through a barrier! Hah! They took care of that barrier pretty quickly!
Second year was a bit better. We learned that squeezing them together into the smallest space possible was the best. That way they couldn’t get a running start to head butt anyone. That all actually went pretty well — just a few minor glitches.
This year we introduced two “new” tricks that we learned from wise shepherds. We put old rubber tires on the ground in between them to slow them down a bit — to fill in the gaps. AND we took the cologne and sprayed it on certain body parts to mask smells that they brought with them from their harem of ewes. It’s actuallly the smells of the other ewes that supposedly gets to them the most.
We squeezed them in the corner of one of our pens and settled them in for the day with a couple of flakes of hay. The hay was a good distraction, but it didn’t completely suppress their desires to kill each other.
I then spent the better part of the next 6-7 hours ramsitting, with an hour or so total of breaks when Roy relieved me so that I could get warm. Speaking of which — and advertisement here – the Carhartt women’s arctic quilt-lined coat is AWESOME! Temperatures hovered around freezing most of the time with increasing winds as the day went on.
I kept warm by walking around the pasture outside of their pen, crook in hand, singing Christmas carols. I thought that perhaps my voice would at least distract (certainly not soothe!) the rams a bit. I had lots of time to think, of course, comparing myself to the shepherds keeping watch of their flocks on that first Christmas night, hoping that I might get interrupted in my thoughts by the sudden appearance of a choir of angels singing Gloria in excelsius Deo, but no luck.
For the most part the boys were pretty good. Drover is clearly King, and Boomer happily backed down most of the time, but Drover couldn’t seem to leave Boomer alone. Of course it didn’t help that Boomer kept sticking his tongue out at Drover…
Guys are so difficult to figure out. I think they actually like each other, but at the same time want to beat each other up. I think human guys are a bit like that, too!
As dusk descended, they seemed to settle down. They were yawning right and left! They had both basically been on their feet for 6 hours straight! I left them on their own to come up for dinner, and when we checked a hour or so later, they were both snuggled up side by side resting, watching the snow fall, like life long buddies.
Tomorrow they will be released into the ram paddock, where I suspect they’ll get a few last head smacks in for good measure. Nothing like a good headache after running full speed at your best bud from 50 feet away, eh? Guys…. they make little sense, whatever the species! Strange beings, but I like ’em anyway!