Now that I decided to keep the two sheep; it is time to breed them.
I called up the lady who has rams (daddy sheep) and asked for a date for my two girls; Mary (the momma) and Bo-peep the daughter.
The lady told me that her prices have doubled since last year. She said that it would now cost me $300.00 to breed my two girls. She also wanted me to provide the food for them while they stay at her house for at least 30 days. The 30 days stay usually turns into 60 days in order to verify pregnancy with an ultrasound.
Yes, you read that right. I have a friend who owns an ultrasound. Not only can she verify pregnancy, but she can sometimes even verify gender.
I could have a pregnancy verification party!. Can you just see it? All my pregnant friends and their pregnant pets can come over to have ultrasounds. We could also crank up the Karaoke machine to sing lullabies to all babies (great and small), while the expectant fathers keep the fire pit going. Sounds like fun to me.
Ok back to sheeping. There is something else that you must do when you breed outside your own herd. You must take a blood test from each participant and send the blood to a lab to check for s-x-u-l-y transmitted diseases. I understand why the owner of the ram would expect that, but that adds a lot more money to the final cost of a lambing operation.
So instead of running to my bank to take out a loan, I went to Dr Google. I know that with some animals, there is a phenomena referred to as hybrid vigor. That is when you breed a purebred animal of one variety to a purebred animal of a different variety-of the same type of animal. The result is a half breed that grows to adult weight sooner than the purebred of either variety.
I have known this information since I was 12 and breeding meat rabbits. For instance; a California meat rabbit reaches harvest weight at 12 weeks, but when bred to a New Zealand White; the offspring will reach harvest weight at 10 weeks. This saves 2 weeks worth of time and food during a time when the rabbit eats the most food.
Back to sheeping again. My research told me that one of the breeds that will create hybrid vigor( when bred to my Katadin girls); is a Dorper. So I called around and asked for a reputable source of Dorpers. All calls pointed to Mrs R. I called her, and had a lovely discussion with her. She keeps a closed herd, which means that she does not breed outside of her flock. She makes her money by selling babies. Her babies have no disease, and her parent stock have papers to prove it.
Gary and I drove 82 miles out to Mrs R’s 15 acre property, and purchased a 6 week old bottle baby. I wanted to name him Ram-a-lamb-a-ding-dong, but when I saw how majestic his father was; I decided to let him keep his given name.
The reason that we decided on a bottle baby is that when a ram is raised by people with a bottle, he becomes a sweet pet and much easier to handle when he becomes the big 250# handsome daddy. He will be more than twice my weight, and I am not getting any younger (just better).
Ivan is as sweet as he can be. He comes into the house 3 times a day to slurp down about a pint of milk at each feeding. He spends his day out in the field with Mary and Bo peep. He spends his night sleeping with them in their barn.
Here is the magic in all of this. I would have had to pay $150, plus feed, plus lab fees every year for each of my two girls. But I paid 150.00 for Ivan, plus milk (until Ivan is old enough to just eat pasture) and in return; I will have my two girls bred every year from now on; without additional fees. I will have lamb in the freezer when the time is right, I could also barter with or sell a lamb to pay any costs that I might incur.
I did not name my little ram lamb for a doo-wop song after all. But last night;, when I put him to bed, I heard him singing to the lady sheep–
He was singing; Doo-wa-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy doo.