After last Friday’s blog update, I received a question about this year’s ram lamb Peter. He is Hannah’s son, sired by Hannah’s son Martin (born 2013). The details of how Peter came to be are in our blog dated April 4, 2016, and I know from my email inbox that there is interest about how Peter has fared and what will become of him as we near our annual trip to the auction, where many of our non-breeders go.
Peter is not one of our biggest Romneys, but due to the very close breeding and his late birth date, I didn’t expect him to be. Yet he has grown well enough, and he is a very handsome ram lamb. Although he still has very gray legs and gray hair on his face, it isn’t particularly obvious at this time of year since all of those areas are exposed to the dirt and grime of pasture living. None of our white sheep are particularly white right now, and Peter is no exception — he looks no different from any of the other Romney ram lambs.
Yet there are traits that I see in Peter that I don’t see in our other boys. Peter comes from two fairly nervous sheep; both Martin and his mother Hannah are very wary of people and keep their distance if at all possible. After all, it took me seven years to get Hannah to take a graham cracker from my fingers — and Martin still won’t do it! Peter, however, is a very stoic young ram. He has a calm demeanor, and nothing much gets him worked up. He plays with his friends and will move away from our border collies, yet he does so at a fairly leisure pace, not at all worried about what might happen if he falls behind. He will eat crackers from my fingers and stand to allow me to adjust his coat. Peter is as calm as they come.
This type of inbreeding can suppress growth, so it doesn’t strike me as odd that Peter still weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy pounds. He is nowhere near the largest of our lambs (that honor belongs to Prague, who weighed in at about 128 pounds before leaving last weekend!) nor the smallest (that position is filled by Sweet Pea, at about 46 pounds). But because he comes from good, strong old Romney lines, I know he will reach full size in about three years — like Martin, who now weighs about 220 pounds.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Peter, and his build is very correct — another important factor for our breeding rams. His fleece is lovely, with high luster and incredibly soft handle. From every indication, Peter could be a very nice breeding ram for our flock if he grows out as I expect. In fact, if all goes well, he could be a true gem. Because of his close breeding, he is more likely to carry duplications of many different genes, meaning that he is more likely to pass the same genetics to each of his lambs, giving me more predictability in his offspring.
It is still too early to know whether Peter will live up to my very high expectations, but for the time being, he has the benefit of the doubt. We will keep him over the winter to give him time to grow, and we’ll reassess where he stands next spring. Until then, Peter will be an interesting and welcome member of our ram flock.