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Sheep Courtship

Posted 11/8/2011 6:25pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A Corriedale yearling ram investigates one of the several hundred Saxon Merino ewes at the rear of the crossbred breeding group to see if she's cycling and ready to breed.  The young fellow doesn't know yet that when a girl is ovulating she'll find a ram and stand next to him: if he moves 3 steps to the right, she moves 3 steps to the right, if he turns around, she turns around...thus the mating dance goes until she's bred or her cycle is over.  

Her cycle lasts about 24 hours and occurs every 18 days.  We keep the rams with the ewes for 36 days or 2 cycles.

To breed the Saxon Merino ewes in the crossbred breeding flock, we're using Corriedale rams because they sire a large lamb who gets to market weight sooner than the purebred Saxon Merino lambs; but we won't keep their wool as larger lambs have coarser wool, much coarser than the Saxon Merino wool we spin into yarn.  

As always we have another breeding group, a wool group. We selected 50 elite purebred Saxon Merino ewes and are breeding them to 2 excellent purebred Saxon Merino rams: their lambs will be, as far as fine wool is concerned—the best of the best—purebred Saxon Merinos yet they will be smaller and slower growing than the crossbreds.

One breed does not offer excellence in all sheep traits; fine wool and large size are negative correlations.