Our latest ram, Rambunctious, is a product of circumstance and a couple of minor management missteps.
Well, minor might be the wrong adjective in that last sentence.
It turns out that those management missteps had a major impact on my current daily life at the Graham Ranch.
Rambunctious was born here sometime last spring.
I have no idea exactly when he came into this world, but I suspect it was somewhere in the middle of the pack of ewes who welcomed lambs early last May.
I must have been stressed or distracted – most likely both – because I docked his tail, but did not castrate him.
My husband, Steve, and I do not keep our own lambs for breeding rams – we like to introduce new and improved genetics through the Y chromosome – so my best guess is that I neglected all indications of his malehood and thought he was a ewe lamb.
That was circumstance number one.
Life kept pace with the sun arcing across the sky for the rest of the summer until Steve spotted the undeniable clues hanging like the golden delicious apples from the tree in our backyard, highlighting my misstep.
I hooked Rambunctious with my shepherd’s hook and stuck him in the sick pen that we refer to as the Jethro Pen because it has an old car that looks like it might have been driven by the Beverly Hillbillies. That’s a story for another time, though.
Rambunctious jumped out of the Jethro Pen a few days later.
By then, I planned to run all of our sheep through the working chute in a couple of weeks so I didn’t chase down Rambunctious. He was not a particularly big lamb so I figured his physical immaturity would protect me from teenage pregnancies.
That was circumstance number two.
We worked the sheep. I pulled Rambunctious from the flock and tamed him with good alfalfa and a few puny companions.
Rambunctious was content for a few months.
Then came time to haul lambs, puny and big, to the auction market.
Ram lambs don’t sell well at auctions so I cut out Rambunctious from the sale load.
Then things got a bit crazy and I got a bit distracted and Rambunctious joined his buddies on the auction load.
That was circumstance number three.
As we were loading lambs on to the semi, one jumped over the loading chute.
I tackled him just as Steve hollered “That’s a ram!”
Both of us clambered up off the ground, Rambunctious acting indignant that I had knocked him over and u-turned his head.
That was circumstance number four.
On Valentine’s Day, a ewe offered the loving gift of a newborn lamb, surprising us by three months.
Apparently, Rambunctious had not been as immature as I thought.
I had a week’s reprieve, but one or two ewes each day have been popping out babies ever since. I suspect they will continue until early April and then start in again on their regular schedule at the end of April.
My daily routine revolves around checking the ewes about every two hours from 4:45 a.m. until 8 p.m. I don’t find newborns at every check, but cold winds and snow insist that I get them inside as soon as I spot the distinctive posture of a new mother in the pasture.
I have realized some advantages of lambing in February and March.
I now know which combination of my wool hats works best in below-zero wind chills.
I easily surpass my daily Fitbit goal.
I remember one benefit of keeping orphan ewe lambs for replacements.
As I led a reluctant ewe with newborn twins toward the barn in the predawn, starlit darkness, Virginia decided she needed a treat.
Named three years ago when our theme for orphan lambs was states, Virginia stuck her nose into my coat pocket looking for an alfalfa pellet.
The reluctant ewe followed Virginia as I walked backward with the twins in my hands. Virginia was oblivious to our path; she found the treat stash.
It didn’t take long to get the ovine family into the barn, then Virginia followed me back to the corral before I ran out of pellets in my pocket.
Another advantage of single-sire early lambs will not benefit Rambunctious.
So far, about 70 percent of these unplanned lambs have inverted eyelids, a painful genetic condition.
Due to the above circumstances, I have narrowed the culprits.
Rambunctious and his father will be on the next truck to the auction.
I even wrote “sell Rambunctious” in my lambing record book – just in case I get distracted.