Tuesday, January 2, 2007


I have many things I could post about but today I decided to put up a little something about one of our favorite rams. Ike is a moorit spotted horned Icelandic. Over time his horns will get longer and longer and curl around and around like the rams in the wild. You can see the spotting on his face and ears but he has a mostly white body. Spotting varies as in any animal. Some Icelandics can be mostly spot (meaning they are almost all white) or they can have various amounts of color and shapes of their spots.
Ike has turned out to be a such a nice ram that we will be keeping him to use for breeding again next year. He is not my largest ram of this age--but he's no slouch. He has nice horns, good personality, thick fleece and a nice overall build.

Icelandics are known for being a triple purpose breed---milk, meat and fleece. We have another ram that grew so well this year ---he is a bit bigger than the other rams his age ---that we bred him to some ewes to pass on a "meat" build. We also have a number of females that give extra extra soft fleeces---those are the ones we hope pass on the softness trait to their young. Then we have the milking criteria. The only problem with the milking part is that the Icelandic has not generally been selected exclusively for this trait as in the case of a few other sheep breeds. Because of this, and because they are still a more "primitive" less domesticated breed, they are not always the best on the milking stand. Some of them have a tendency to be "twitchy". Well, for anyone who has milked an animal---a twitchy one is annoying. It can mean spilled milk, feet in buckets, lack of let down or a number of other annoying things. (It can also mean second cuts in fleeces when shearing and hard to trim hooves.) Last years ram was a very calm ram and we got a couple of ewes that are more calm and one that is extra calm. Now we are progressing further with Ike. I think Ike might be even calmer than last years ram was so we are hoping for a number of extra extra calm ewes from him since we don't bottle feed our lambs to make them "tamer"--we prefer to let their mothers do that. If we bottle fed we could have lots of "sitting in your lap their so tame" ewes---but it is also a hassle that we don't want to have to mess with. It entails going outside a number of times a day to feed, cleaning bottles and watching for health issues that come only with bottle feeding if you aren't careful--not for me thank you. I prefer the ease of their mother feeding them.

In the picture you can see my hand and my red sweat pant leg---that's because Ike enjoys humans so much you can't get him to go away to take a picture of him. Some people say not to encourage rams to be friendly with humans but we don't believe in that. We feel if they are aggressive they should be culled, not made to be afraid of us and hope they don't get you while your back is turned. In the picture my leg and hand were holding Ike back farther to get a better picture since he was trying to chew on the tie string of my sweats and get in close for a scratch. You can also see one of my ewes next to him---she was biting my watch most of the time while I took the pictures. She is a real sweety and we bred her to Ike this year in the hopes that they would make a good combo. Tippi (the ewe in the pic) comes from a farm that breeds specifically for milking so we have high hopes for her and Ike's baby(ies). Tippi was a natural quad. Her mother had 3 white ewe lambs and a black and white ewe lamb. Icelandics can carry a gene that allows them to have up to 6 lambs. Though I don't know of any who have had 6---there are a number of them who have 4 and quite a few that have 3. Twins are the expected and a ewe that doesn't regularly have twins is usually culled.

We don't breed exclusively for milking but since we like sheep's cheese (a lot) and it is one reason why we own sheep, we do try keep that in mind when evaluating our sheep hence the blog on Ike. We will never have the available room to have a diary on this property but we can supply ourselves and our family with home made cheeses without chemicals and growth hormones and all the other "junk" that can be in commercial varieties.

1 comment:

Joe Greene said...

I agree about encouraging friendliness in rams. Both of ours are difficult to photo as well because they want to be right there touching you.