Sheep — being very adaptable ruminants that have weathered millennia in fields around the world — don’t really need a barn for survival; they essentially carry their own shelter on their backs. They need only a bit of shade in the summer to keep them a tad cooler and a windbreak in the winter to protect them from blizzards. In the summer, our barns are used primarily for storage. Yet every once in a while, putting select sheep into the barn makes sense: they are usually easily moved there since it is familiar territory, we can easily monitor them since I’m in the barn daily for chores, and their feed and water is readily accessible.
On Thursday of last week, I made a trip east (Indiana and Pennsylvania) to drop off sheep, and I picked up a couple others on the way back to our farm. Those two returning sheep were Nayarit (originally named Barcelona, but now called Naya), a CVM ewe born on my friend Isabela’s farm, and Noa, a ram originally born here who had gone to Isabela’s on loan for breeding last fall. For various reasons, Noa ended up in quarantine in the barn upon his arrival, with a friend to keep him company (Odin).
We had two possibilities for where to settle them: a smaller pen towards the back of the barn where we were holding a few rams in preparation for loading and delivery to other farms, and a larger pen towards the front of the barn that held a larger number of ewes that had yet to be loaded. Since all of these sheep would very shortly be out of the barn and ready for transport on Saturday, we knew that we would soon have both pens available. The larger pen included an automatic waterer, so that seemed the better option; I wouldn’t have to haul water if they resided there. When we unloaded Noa, we first put him with Odin into the smaller pen while we emptied the larger area. We then loaded the ewes into the trailer, and although the two rams seemed perfectly happy where they were, we moved Noa and Odin to the larger pen.
They moved fairly easily. After all, there was hay and fresh water in their destination pen, and the smaller area had neither. Both boys moved without fuss and we shifted our focus to finishing up with the sheep in the trailer and loading all that we needed for our delivery trip.
Suddenly, we were startled by a clatter behind us. Noa, now a yearling weighing about 180 pounds, had vaulted over the 40″-high panels that enclosed his space, leaving poor Odin trying to figure out how to follow. Even worse, Noa didn’t quite make it over the panels! He caught his back leg in the top of the welded wire openings, which kept him twisting in place. Yikes! If he broke that rear leg, there would be no chance of putting him into his breeding group this fall. We ran to release him from the dangerous situation.
However, trying to lift the weight of a big young ram is not easily done. It took a few minutes before I could maneuver his body in such a way that I could release his leg from the awkward position. It was obvious, once Noa had been released from the panels, that although his leg was not broken, it was injured. He hobbled back into the pen with Odin, limping heavily. The only good aspect of this, I thought, was that at least Noa would be unlikely to try his high jump again. We finished preparing for the next day’s trip and headed into the house for the night.
The next morning, we were focused on our delivery trip into Wisconsin and Illinois. We arrived at the barn to find that Noa had obviously not been as injured as we thought, since he had vaulted the panels during the night! Thankfully, we had run a backup set of panels across the doorways of the barn, just in case. Noa was obviously intent on breeding the ewes just outside the barn, regardless of what he had to jump over to get to those girls!
Noa had been away for an entire year, so he has spent more time away from our farm than on it. I knew when he was quite young that there was something special about this boy — in many ways. He is not only fairly dark in color (and will pass on darker colored fleece to his lambs), but he also carries moorit brown, comes from some of our finest fleece lines, and is impressively built. As a result, he is slated to have quite a nice-sized breeding group this fall.
Now that Noa is back on our farm, I can see that not only does he have all of these very positive physical traits, but he’s also quite an athlete and a determined breeder. Although I’m never truly pleased with any sheep who tries to escape, I understand the source of this drive in Noa and have moved him a safer distance from the ewes he is so determined to reach. I will admit that his determination to breed and his ability to leap these panels to bring him closer to his goal have made an impression on me. The little charcoal lamb I sent into Wisconsin last summer has obviously grown into quite a stunning young ram, and I now can’t wait to see which of his many positive traits come through in his lambs.