It’s March, and the yearling Soay rams love their new spring pastures

Out here in Oregon where we have been spared the endless rounds of blizzards and ice storms, our year-old rams can’t get enough of the emerging pastures. I was photographing parts of our fencing earlier last week for an earnest post about how to construct a fence that will keep Soay sheep safe and happy, when our yearling rams decided I should lighten up and watch them instead. For those of you in the midwest and northeastern U.S., I apologize, but I just have to share a few pictures and a few comments about post-rut, lighthearted ram jostling.

Soay rams are sooo happy to be off hay and onto grass!

Nose-deep in the new spring grass

The first spring pasture growth is tender, tasty, and obviously very palatable. We are not sure whether it is as nutritious as the summer grass, but try telling these boys. Every spring we debate when to take the sheep off hay and put them on grass, and whether to wait longer until the grass is thicker before turning our voracious flock out to mouth-mow it down. This year we are so short on the mountain snow that feeds our river that we are likely to have our irrigation cut off in July. That means going back to hay way way early, so one of these days we will turn all the adults and yearlings other than our pregnant ewes out onto the pastures and save the hay for later. Not surprisingly, the sheep couldn’t agree more with our choice.

Yearling British Soay ram on first spring grass

Saltmarsh Lewes enjoys the emerging clover

Here is one of our black British Soay rams, Lewes, on what at first glance looks like a scraggier patch of new grass. But look again at all that lovely clover — a good sign the pasture is healthy and ready for eating.

Before long the rams decide they would rather play than eat, so they take off for a romp through the tall grass. And who can blame them?

Soay rams frolic on spring pasture

Here we go loop-de-loop

Heritage sheep romp through the pasture

All on a Saturday bright!

If anyone tries to tell you this heritage sheep stuff, especially conservation breeding with the British Soay, is all work and no play, don’t believe it!

Fun-loving Saltmarsh Sheffield happily back on pasture

Sheffield stots his way across the pasture

Saltmarsh Hastings shows off his stotting technique

Not to be outdone, Hastings practices for the high hurdles event

It’s hard to take shepherding too seriously when the biggest cut-ups out there right now are AI grandsons, the sheep with the most recent infusion of genes from the U.K. You would think that with such fancy breeding, they would be more reserved. Uh …no!

Now that rut is over, even if the young rams take a notion to engage in a little practice head-butting, it’s pretty low key. No sooner do they get started than one of them decides eating that new grass is a better use of his time,

Yearling British Soay rams head-butt, but just for fun

“Wanna fight?”

Rams prefer eating to posturing in the spring

“No thanks, I’d rather eat”

… or that romping around the field is both safer and more fun.

Soay rams face off

Lewes (the dark ram) and Emsworth (the tan ram) eye each other warily

Soay rams about to butt heads

Emsworth angles for position

Soay rams in a mild fracas

Lewes may take a glancing hit, but that’s all

Yearling rams play a game of "catch me if you can"

“You can’t catch me”

That’s it — no grand pronouncements, no advice, hope you are enjoying your flock in the spring sunshine. In another couple of weeks we will be awash with lambs, but life at Saltmarsh Ranch is pretty easy-going for now …

Tags: , ,