One of Spring Rocks' handsome Suffolk Rams (not SR
he wasn't here long enough to get a name or have a photo taken)
he wasn't here long enough to get a name or have a photo taken)
We’re home again after our travels with another Suffolk ram in tow. This ram is to replace the ram we bought last year who, as a stud ram, was a dismal failure. Just let me tell you about last year’s ram. He wasn’t here long enough to get a name so we’ll just call him SR (for Suffolk ram of course).
We first met SR at the farm in South Australia where he was being auctioned. He had everything we were looking for in a ram (or so we thought) – a good head, lovely strong legs for chasing the girls around the paddocks, he was well grown and fit and a very handsome ram. In other words just perfect for what we needed. We settled into the auction with only one thought – get that ram! When he came up for bidding we obviously weren’t the only ones who had that thought, but after a fiercely fought battle of flying bids where no auctioneer was safe from the nodding, finger lifting or eyelid fluttering, depending on each bidders technique, we emerged the victors and the owners of one gorgeous ram ready to make the trek back to Spring Rock.
His arrival at the farm was uneventful. We took the trailer into the ram paddock, introduced him to our other rams, opened the trailer gate and away he went, anxious to make new friends. If only we had stood watching him for a few more minutes we might have got some inkling of what was to come. As it was we were delighted to see him apparently settling in well and definitely on the way to making new friends in the sheep community. With light and happy hearts we turned our tired thoughts to the house and our bed.
A few months later it was time to introduce SR to the girls who would be ready, willing and able to whisper sweet nothings in his ear and make him the happiest ram on earth. These days we synchronise the ewe joining. I won’t go into the scientific details here but all it means is that we know which ewes will cycle (be ready for mating) on each particular date. We arrange it so each ram in our mating shed has six ewes to serve in the one day. I know , I know, it takes all the romance out of it for the poor ewes. No honeyed words in the days leading up to the big event, no being followed by a love struck ram just waiting for her to give him the nod. Just tossed into a pen with the ram and left there for 24 hours while he casually dealt with each of six ewes all more than ready, willing and able! Then turfed out, back with the ewes with an embarrassing red, dot on her bottom where the ram’s raddle (harness with a crayon in it) has left it’s tell tale mark.
But back to the particular pen where SR was to meet the girls for the first time… We bunged the six ewes into the pen with him, wished him luck with his first forays into love and sex and left him to it, believing that privacy would be very welcome to the ram as he perfected his technique. Unfortunately when we entered the shed the next morning, each ewe was exactly how we’d left her, with the exception of a frustrated look in every eye. No tell tale red dots on the bottom. Ahh, we thought, the raddle crayon is too hard, or too dirty or too something else to have made a distinct mark. We vainly searched every fibre of wool on each girl’s bottom in the hope of finding a red streak or two. No red streaks appeared. We tested the crayon on a ewe’s side just to be sure it was working – it was. There was no getting away from the fact that the blame seemed to be levelled right at SB’s door.
Not a problem we told each other. We’ve had young innocent rams before who have taken a while to get the idea of what’s required. We left those six ewes with him in case any of them were still cycling and added another six to his harem for variety’s sake. With a wink and a few ribald comments to help get him thinking the right way, we once again left him to get on with it in private. The next morning the only difference from the morning before was that we now had 12 frustrated ewes instead of 6. All other rams were making their way through their allotted 6 ewes each day with little more than a leer as the old guard was returned to the paddock and the new girls were hustled into their pens. SR watched this with interest, but basically ignored his new allotment of ewes as they entered, giggling and nudging each other in excitement as they saw this handsome fellow so close. Right, we thought this time, he’s used to large paddocks and the free life. He probably feels too restricted to get to work with all these walls around him. So we let him and his ewes out into an adjoining paddock, gave him a few last minute instructions regarding the birds and the bees and once more left him to get on with it.
The next morning alarm bells started to ring for us when we saw that he had forced his way through the fence back into the ram paddock, where he was making up for lost time carousing with his friends around the dam wall. Hmm, we thought this time, maybe he needs a role model. With that we drafted off one of our old teaser rams (a ram that has had a vasectomy – no really that is what a teaser ram is. Honest) to show the young fellow the ropes. The idea behind this is that the young ram will soon get the idea and try to muscle in on the old ram and take over the serving of the ewes. At which time we would remove the teaser ram and go inside for a well earned cup of tea.
I’ve been involved in the stud equivalent of a porn movie before. We once had a young buck who was totally inexperienced with their girls. We introduced an experienced and highly oversexed ram into his harem and had a great time trying to stop the experienced ram serving the does, while trying to encourage the new comer to get in there and do the job. Ultimately we had success but not until we’d made a mortal enemy of the experienced buck who vowed never to forgive us. So we felt quietly confident that the introduction of the teaser ram would work, and without any of that unseemly intervention of us to try and stop him mating with the ewes.
Then we were faced with the stark reality. SR stood back and watched the proceedings with an interested look on his little woolly face. The light bulb went on and SR new what he had to do. He chose his new beloved and … sidled up to the teaser ram!!!! Yep, our new boy was gay. Unfortunately for him the teaser ram definitely was not. Not only was he not gay, but he really, really found SR’s tender attentions annoying while he was trying to sweet talk a particularly nubile ewe. With a murmur of, “Wait right where you are my dear, while I deal with this annoying little upstart and I’ll be right back.” He turned his head and tossed SR a few feet before returning to the now admiring ewe. SR wasn’t to be put off that easily. Oh no. He’d finally found love and by God love he was going to give.
We ended up removing the teaser and SR, turning all the Suffolk girls out into the paddock with the mated White Suffolk ewes and rejected Suffolk ewes from the two previous days. Here the Suffolk ewes could all commiserate with one another and try to ignore the smug looks from the White Suffolk girls. We then returned to the house to have a cup of tea and a re-think about our Suffolk mating this year. We only have one Suffolk ram for breeding, and he can only breed with the ewes for two years before his daughters are old enough to go into lamb. Once that happens we need to buy a new ram, which we use for two years and so it goes. Just a small digression here, if you think we actually get rid of the old Suffolk rams, you don’t know me very well. When we first had to replace an existing ram Graeme was all for sending the old one to the sale yards where his likely fate would be dog food. I wouldn’t have a bar of this. I told Graeme that the rams had worked themselves to the bone providing us with beautiful lambs suitable for selling as stud rams and we were not going to be so ungrateful as to condemn then to ending up as kibble. Graeme knew when he was fighting a losing battle and that’s why our ram paddocks are populated with geriatric Suffolk and White Suffolk rams, enjoying a well earned retirement.
Now back to our breeding problems. We couldn’t use either of the retired fellows because they were father and grandfather to a lot of the ewes. We rang the person from whom we’d bought the ram and told him our troubles. He was very understanding and offered us an old stud ram of his as a replacement for that joining and a full credit to spend at his next sale (the one from which we have just returned). We drove back to South Australia lickety split, picked up the very experienced and very heterosexual ram and introduced him to our girls at the first opportunity. To say he was willing to accommodate even the most blatant hussy in the mob is to understate the case. He was thrilled to be back among ewes again, and to find that every ewe he met was immediately willing to entertain his most erotic demands was sheer heaven! All was well on Spring Rock once again.
I’m afraid all wasn’t well for SR. I pleaded his case long and hard. He could live his alternate life choice with the rams, I said. He wouldn’t be any trouble. He wouldn’t eat much. He was only young and couldn’t be condemned because he liked boys instead of girls. What about sexual discrimination?? What about a bit of the milk of human kindness for a ram that had a different sexual orientation to the majority?? What about … I was starting to run out of what abouts by this time, but that didn’t stop me. I simply started again from the beginning. I’m sad to report that none of my what abouts had any effect on Graeme. He didn’t want SR “bothering” the rams so he said SR had to go and he stuck to his guns. I think he was worried that SR might convert a few of the rams to his way of thinking and that could have been disastrous, so poor old SR took the short ride to Wagga Sale yards while I quietly mourned him at home.
And the new ram you ask? Is he all that a ram should be? Has he shown an interest in the girls yet? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s not mating time yet. But you can be sure that Graeme and I will be watching his performance with interest. Excuse me for a minute. I’m just off to tell the new ram this whole sad story. Hopefully he will think twice before making any snap decisions about his sexuality.