Saturday, 27 December 2008

On the first day...

...the two flocks were brought one at a time into the barn, the rams hived off into a small pen, the ewes amalgamated and sent gently back to pasture for the rest of their confinement.
Toyboy and Samson were not happy. First, they'd lost their lady-loves, and second, their machismo was severely under threat from another young male. Toyboy, the older by a couple of years, was certainly in the ascendant. He butted and chinned and swiped as much as the highly restricted pen allowed. I left them with hay and water and very limited space to get to know each other.
On the second day, Toyboy was standing guard over the haynet. I fed Samson by hand and then put up a second net on the opposite side of the pen to give my black boy a chance to feed. I wasn't going to make their area bigger yet; rams can kill if they have enough of a run up and the will to damage an opponent.
On the third day I stood and observed. They were sharing haynets. Time to enlarge the pen by adding in a couple more sheep hurdles. A bit of minor argybargy ensued. Toyboy is definitely top dog.
On the fourth day a bit of a schoolboy ribbing is taking place, but the SAS mentality has retreated. Toyboy is the alpha male, but Samson is eating boldly from whichever haynet he likes and is unharmed.
On the fifth day I dismantle the pen entirely and give the two rams the run of the barn. Mayhem and madness ensue. As soon as there is room to do so, Toyboy runs backwards and charges full pelt and head on into Samson. The smack resonates round the barn and I pick up a hefty piece of 4x2. As Toyboy chases Samson round the weigh crate I position myself, legs anchored, and just as Toyboy is about to butt a head spinning Samson for a third time I intervene with my thwacking stick. Toyboy stops and thinks for a moment, and then entirely unfazed gallops in reverse, fllicks into first gear and charges again and again. But my stick comes between them and Toyboy gets no joy. I refill the haynets and the water bucket and stop to watch the boys dance about; it's a game of Glasgow kiss-chase that Samson can't win. Samson has been told that he is at the bottom of the food chain and submits to his fate.
On the sixth day, the two rams stand side by side, looking up at me as if butter wouldn't melt.
On the seventh day I open the gate to the rams paddock, fetch a small scoop of sheep nuts in a bucket, and open the barn door. Toyboy runs after me, eager for the nuts. Samson follows behind. Into the paddock, gate shut, reinforced with an old metal gate to stop them barging their way out. The ice in their trough is broken up. Hay is served. Samson wanders about snatching at the fresh grass. Toyboy follows him, not wanting to stray too far from his new best mate.
What a palaver. But so far, I have two live rams, no blood spilled, both contented to spend their off-duty time together.

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