Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rams, Ewes, and Lambs.

     It's lambing time! For those of you with little exposure to sheep, that simply means: The time when the lambs are born.

     A part of the ranching industry here in Owyhee County is dedicated to sheep. They spend the warm months grazing in the hills and the cold months in pens. Sheep are raised for meat and wool. A group of sheep is called a herd, mob, or flock. A typical herd of sheep is made up mostly of females, called ewes, (pronounced "yew") with just a few males, called rams. Their only real job is to get fat, grow wool and birth lambs.

    A ram (pictured above) is mostly responsible for fathering lambs. While most of the protection of the herd is handled by the sheep dogs and shepherds the ram can still hold his own if need be. The shepherd will pick the best rams to keep. The rest will be sold or castrated. These sheep, called wethers are useful for meat and wool, but will not interfere with the ram's work.

     A ewe (above again) can give birth to one, two and sometimes even three or more lambs. The lambs will grow quickly and will only need to nurse for a short time. This allows the ewe to regain her health completely before the winter comes. A ewe will be able to raise lambs every year for most of her life.

(For the adults)
     While it may seem that the sheep industry is a simple one, nothing could be further from the truth. Like all agriculture, it is time-consuming and hard work. A sheep is vulnerable to disease, poison, predators, and a host of other problems. And the infrastructure and overhead of the business can be crippling to the industry. I urge you to support your local shepherds, if indeed there are any left in your area. Prepared correctly, the meats are some of the very finest. And whether or not meat is your thing, wool is a tried and tested fabric that is tough and warm. Get some today! Okay maybe not today... But remember! When your money goes to a local producer, some of it may come back to you when they spend some money at your business.

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