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Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Ram Marking Harness Conundrum

This year, I used a marking harness on Cragganmore when I put him out with the ewes.  For those who don't know, a marking harness is worn by the ram (or a goat buck) and has a coloured marking block of waxy, crayon-like material positioned on the chest.  When the ram mounts a ewe, he leaves a coloured spot on her back, showing that she has (likely) been bred.  I thought it would be an excellent way of tracking who had been bred and therefore predicting due dates.  I dutifully noted each day which ewes were more colourful than they day before, and kept track of all this information on an Excel spreadsheet that I titled "Farm Fornication Data," much to the amusement of a few house guests who saw the sheet posted on the wall of the kitchen.

The sheet also gave me the correct dates to provide CDT shots, suggested day to move to the lambing jug, suggested day for a vitamin E shot if I felt it was necessary, and other such useful dates.  I was quite pleased at being so organized this year for the goat kidding and lambing events.  I thought I had it all figured out.

The goats actually performed on schedule, and all 3 goat moms gave birth within 2 days of their scheduled date. These goats all were due to give birth before the sheep, so they lulled me into a sense of security...a sense that I had taken control and was fully informed...a confidence that I knew when my lambs were going to be arriving.  HA!

My detailed spreadsheet, so carefully followed, told me the following:
1.  Oreo the Icelandic was due to give birth on Monday, April 26.
2.  Paisley the BFL was due to give birth on Wednesday, April 28.
3.  Flurry the Icelandic was due to give birth on Friday, April 30.
4.  Poppy, the Rambouillet-Suffolk-Dorset cross bred was due to give birth on Sunday, May 2.
Every morning last week, when I went down to the pasture, I carefully wandered around inspecting sheep rear ends and looking for the signs of labour.  Every morning, I was disappointed, and began to lose faith in my spreadsheet.

Yesterday, on Friday April 30, Poppy was the first of the four to give birth!  Meanwhile, Oreo and Flurry continue to stare at me when I try to look at their rear ends, flaunting their huge udders and wide-load appearances.
Bianca is also giving me "the look." 
I know they are secretly laughing at me (or not so secretly).  I hear it when I turn my back and walk away.  See?!

My spreadsheet lied.  And now I am completely clueless about lambing dates.   Paisley I'm not so sure about - her udder is still fairly small, so her original mark may have been a failed attempt.

At least I can feel better looking at Poppy's beautiful ram lamb, born yesterday morning, completely off schedule, but with relative ease.

He is a whopping 12 pounds!  Thank goodness she just had a single!  He's a gorgeous black lamb with a little silvering showing on his back.

What a handsome boy.  I am really curious to see how his fleece turns out, given his 50% blue faced Leicester genetics.  I'm not sure what percentage Poppy is in terms of her Rambouillet/Suffolk/Dorset mix, so it's hard to say what percentage the remaining genetics are in her lamb.  I personally think the BFL is showing!

Regardless, he is beautiful, even if he is already laughing at my spreadsheet.

16 comments:

Farmgirl_dk: said...

"Farm Fornication Data" - ha ha ha. I'm a spreadsheet gal, too, so I totally get that wonderful feeling of organization and data tracking! How dare those sheep not lay on schedule! :)Just goes to show you, nature always operates on her own schedule.
That last picture is adorable...

Cynthia said...

What an absolutely perfect little story. Ah yes, that CONTROL thing and sheep; haven't we all had to learn that fun lesson. I'm waiting on an experienced and very huge ewe that I observed as first ewe mounted on the day I put the BFL in the breeding pen, 11/22. Obviously she waited to settle until the next cycle which puts her due Monday. Tricky girls know we are in the house with spreadsheets and flash cards.

Enjoy them all, whenever they come.

IsobelleGoLightly said...

hee hee...FFD sheet! I recognize those looks of "udder contempt".

Nancy K. said...

You're "singing to the choir" Claire! I wasn't even going to breed ANY of my sheep last fall. And once Dazzle foiled that plan I had it figured out that lambing would begin at the end of May...

ya, right! check out my blog post today...

(I obviously had it figured WRONG!!)

Chai Chai said...

Very nice looking black/silver coat. I like the new look and green mountain on the top of the blog as well.

Flartus said...

You're right, he is a gorgeous little boy! Whatever Poppy's genetics, they're good ones.

Love the "laughing sheep" picture. I guess it's hard to survive farming without a good sense of humor, huh? (or, in your case, humour.)

Cat said...

Well, animals seem to enjoy messing with our plans, so go with the flow, I guess. I love that little face, tho, and I bet the fiber will be terrific!

Cat

Jennie C. said...

At two days BEFORE her due date, I'd say Poppy is the only one ON schedule!

Louise said...

Animals excel at proving you wrong. I have found that the best way to make something happen is to say "oh, that never happens." Oh well, the baby is beautiful, and now you have the fun of watching him grow up.

MandD said...

The stuck out tongue says it all. It's difficult for you to recall, you were so young, but you were late too!! The black coat is wonderful. Is that lovely header scene real or made up? It looks like the UK.

Claire the Shepherdess said...

Jennie - you're right! Poppy is on schedule (or close to it). Maybe she will inspire some of the others?!

MandD - what a surprise to see your comment! I knew I was late, even if I don't remember, but do you think that has influenced my sheep?! The new header was one I found online at one of those sites where you can find blog backgrounds. I thought it looked like the UK too, but I figured it was still appropriate for my blog too! Pastoral and all that...did you see the "roots" in the dirt at the very bottom of the page? Clever...

Kelly said...

The stuck out tongue is priceless! I love spreadsheets too-too bad the animals don't have computers. Oh wait, maybe that's a GOOD thing!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

lol! Just goes to show that we humans have no control over nature, as much as we think we do.
The FFD Spreadsheet cracked me up....and good for you for trying to stay on top of things. The little tongue sticking out at you made me giggle. :)


~Lisa

My Life Under the Bus said...

LOL !!! I remember giving my husband that same look - especially with my twins !

polly's path said...

Love, love the spreadsheet. Might borrow the name.
The little guy is so sweet!
I am in the same boat with my new goat Pebbles-after i swore i would never have a doe who was bred on an unknown date. Ha!

Cheyne said...

Glad to see Poppy's doing great! Looks like she had a healthy lamb.
~Cheyne