Marcus came to us from another farm in mid-September, a yearling ram who was smaller than our smallest ram lamb of 2014. When he arrived, he fit into a size 28 coat, meaning that his length from the back of his neck to his dock, or base of tail, measured less than 28″. He weighed 64 pounds. I didn’t know whether he would ever grow into a full-sized ram, or even a small adult ram. The gap between where he was and where he should have been was so dramatic that the latter seemed unachievable, no matter how much we fed or what we did. I was determined to try, but I wasn’t sure there was much hope.
We ended up housing Marcus with our ram lambs. I knew that, at his size, there was no way he would be able to hold his own with any of the adult rams—the size difference was too great. Even among our ram lambs, he stuck out, dwarfed by the other boys who were all about a year younger than he was. I fed him as one of the “little boys,” with hay and some grain, and essentially forgot that he was anything other than one of the lambs.
My first indication that something was happening to Marcus was when we found that the 28″ coat that used to fall in folds around him became too tight in late October. We weighed him when we changed his coat and were surprised to find that he had gained twenty-eight pounds in fifty-one days. He weighed a much more reasonable 92 pounds and was looking more like “one of the guys”!
The holidays came and went, and then lambing. As the ewes recently began to demand a bit less of my time, I suddenly noticed that Marcus is no longer looking so small among his group. In fact, it’s hard to find him among those almost-yearlings now. It’s also been difficult to weigh him, since we would have had to either move him through a number of snow drifts or mud puddles to get him to the scale in the storage barn, or move the scale through those same areas to get to him. On the other hand, this guy whose 28″ coat was too long in September is now in a 40″ coat. What a miraculous change in a relatively short period of time! When I compare him to the other young rams, my guess is that he now weighs at least 130 pounds—another forty pound gain since the end of October!
Marcus still has more growth ahead of him, but I am now confident that he will grow to be a typical, if perhaps somewhat small, adult ram—and that is a very good thing. In the spring, we will do all of the things we typically do when we recognize one of our boys as a breeding ram: register him, test his fiber diameter, determine his genetic scrapie resistance, and generally find out more about this boy who may very well become a permanent member of our flock. He obviously has a strong survival instinct, and that characteristic in itself is a great reason to keep him around, sharing that important trait with the future lambs of our flock!