Until I moved to this part of the world, I knew nothing about animals. And I still don't. So I get excited when I get to see what actually happens in barns. We went to see some sweet little lambs last weekend, and even though there wasn't any birthing action (much to my dismay/relief), it was a fully satisfying experience just to see the babies:)
So here's how it all goes down: All the ewes are out in a field, then a ram enters the field with a harness strapped under its belly. This harness has dye on it--imagine a big marker. So when he "jumps on the ewe," bing bada boom, and there's a mark left on the back of the ewe (see Fig. 1). Mr. Farmer changes the color of the dye strapped to the ram each week so that that he is able to know when the ewe will lamb by the color on her back. Sometimes there's a sneaky rendezvous and a lamb is born earlier than expected. 145 days later the ewe should be ready to lamb, and so if it's cold they bring them into a shed or barn and wait for the little lamb/lambs to arrive. The lambs and ewes in these pictures are still in sheds because it's pretty cold, so when they are a couple of weeks old they will be strong enough to be out in the fields getting nice and fat until they meet Mr. Butcher. I never said this story had a happy ending. But ANYWAY, they're darn cute and soft and delicious. What? Sorry Mom, I meant for this to be an informational and warm and fuzzy narrative, but really, I'm just telling the truth.
I have always lived under the impression that sheep with horns were male. So when I saw a massive big "ram" with huge horns standing by one of the sheds, I walked up to it and gave it a nudge and wink and said, "Well done there old man, way to go. You must be really proud of yourself." But then Sam informed me that it was a she and was next in line to give birth. I guess sheep can have hormone imbalances too.
One last little tidbit; my little niece who is 1 year old already has a pony, and now she also gets to have a lamb of her choosing. Totally not fair. Kids in the country have it all.