November began with unseasonably sunny weather that saw temperatures here in Wales rise to the seventies, the warmest ever recorded for November! The Ystrad sheep basked in that sunshine and enjoyed the last of this year’s grass, but things soon changed and the last couple of weeks have seen torrential rain. Luckily the traditional British breeds are very hardy, and the two different types of sheep on the farm and their cross bred lambs are sturdy enough to withstand the worst that the weather can throw at them.
The Wensleydale Longwool is a distinctive sheep with a deep ‘blue’ skin and is highly prized for its long curling lustrous fleece, while the Hill Radnor produces the best of our native hill fleeces and has the kind of wily attitude to life you’d expect from a Welsh hill sheep: sharp!
This time of year is all about preparing for what’s going to happen next year. The time when rams and ewes mate is called ‘tupping’, and the Ystrad rams were put in with the ewes at the beginning of October for a six week period. Sheep carry their lambs for five months before giving birth so the lambs will be born anytime between late February and the end of March.
It would be tempting to think that the rams look forward to their six week holiday with the ewes, but the truth is that they have to work hard for their living! During the time when they’re strutting their stuff they barely eat and use up loads of energy so they lose quite a lot of weight. It’s useful to know that the rams have served the ewes so they wear a harness called a raddle that has coloured crayon fixed into it. So after the ram does his business the sheep is left with a coloured mark on her back and there is virtual certainty of a lamb in the spring.
The pictures show ewes with a yellow raddle mark on their backs and a proud looking Wensleydale ram wearing his harness.