Friday, 17 June 2011

Changing the Ram

"Navito" The ram who was with us for the last two years and who has just left to be with new females.

Our ram is a lucky guy with not much on his mind other than roaming freely with the forty odd females that comprise our flock of sheep. What’s more every two years just when he could start to be getting bored with the females that surround him, he is moved on to a new flock of sheep with a totally new set of females, and that’s when we get a new ram for our sheep. The reason we change our ram every couple of years is so that he doesn’t end up mating with his own off spring with the consequent degeneration of the flock associated with inbreeding.

Navito and two of his offspring; one white and one black.

The sheep we keep are Xaldas; the indigenous breed of Asturias which was on the verge of extinction. There is an association ACOXA which cares for the recuperation of this breed and controls the breeding and purity of the race. There are various “good” rams which circulate between the association’s member’s flocks, but this year we wanted a ram with “slightly” different characteristics.

Our flock of Xalda sheep

In past years when we shear the sheep we have thrown the wool away which seems so criminal. We have always wanted to find a use for the wool and so are extremely happy with the recent development of its use for felting by our daughter Samantha and a neighbor Jenny. Within the xalada race there is a huge variation in the characteristics of their fleeces and wool. Not only does the colour vary from white to black but the thickness and the length of the wool fibers vary considerably. Some of the wool types are much easier to clean and untangle than others and some are more suitable for felting than others. So this season when we decided to select a new ram we wanted to take into consideration the characteristics of his wool.

The variety of fleeces and wool types from the Xalda sheep

Another important factor partly influenced by genetics is the quantity and quality of meat on our lambs. We sell most of our lambs for meat and the Xalda sheep are small by nature, so we like a big ram who will produce offspring which accompanied with good grazing will fatten up well.

One of our large rams from 4 years ago.

Sam with local farmers looking at possible new rams.

We have just spent a couple of weeks visiting other breeders of xalda sheep looking at their young male lambs to see their suitability as the new ram for our flock. “Well built and long haired” were major features we searched for. Sam came along looking at the rams and feeling their wool giving her opinion on the suitability for working the wool.

Tronco, the new small ram just before he was introduced to our heard.

At last we’ve opted for a young ram, slightly smaller than I would have hoped for but with good wool characteristics. Our previous ram went to a new flock a couple of weeks ago and the new ram was introduced to our flock last week. Hopefully he will now grow big and strong enjoying our tasty flora rich pastures preparing him for the work ahead. Then all that remains to be seen is the quality of his offspring next spring; that is assuming he does his job well this summer!


Coco said...

Thank you for more information on your beautiful sheep! Someday I´d like to have a few.

You may find that ouessant sheep are similar in size and rusticity. Two blogs I follow are


Diane´s blog is especially helpful regarding fleece characteristics, preparation, etc.

Nigel and Joann Burch said...

Thanks for the links Ive also sent them on to Samantha. Weve got quite a lot of lambs rhis year if you want any......


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