Bob came to the farm late in the fall of 2016. Purebred Cotswold rams are hard to find in Canada. Once a prized breed for their wool and meat, the Cotswolds fell out of favour due to their slower growth. The rams average around 300 pounds or a little less and the ewes 250ish, but they require two full years to mature. Some animals do grow faster than others, but they are not a pounds on quickly meat breed. They do pay for their keep in their lustrous curly fleece though, with a great fleece averaging 7 to 9 pounds of soft, shiny wool. Hand spinners and crafters love the wool for its strength, sheen, and for the individual curls used for Santa beards, scarves and felting projects. The sheep are gentle natured, friendly, great mothers and thrive on grass and marginal forage. What is not to love?
Bob was delivered by a transport who parked at the end of our rather lengthy driveway. He was haltered and walked down the driveway without any issue and stood waiting for his next move. Blind in one eye, he cocked his big head to 'listen' better when I spoke to him. I loved him instantly. Sometimes an animal comes into our lives that simply makes a connection and the mutual love is instant. It was that way with big, old Bob.
Bob was shorn when he arrived from the British Columbia interior. There the weather is mild compared to this region, plus he had a lovely warm barn and lots of oats to munch. I was worried that he would not grow enough of a coat to stay warm in our climate. I did not realize he would come shorn. Sheep here are shorn in the spring only, never the fall, for they need their fleece to insulate them from the cold. Bob would amble over to me when I called him and would give that big head a pat. He was a beautiful coloured ram who had sired many lambs in his years. But he was getting on. I hoped for at least one more breeding season from him.
Bob went to visit the ewes, 5 purebred Cotswolds, 1 E'st a Laine Merino, and 1 Gotland/BFL. I saw no evidence of breeding and began to get worried that it was not happening. 7 ewes is surely manageable for a big old guy like Bob! Then Bob and the border collie, Robbie, had a tiff and Bob got a few nips. He developed an infection and was treated, but that incident, plus extremely frigid weather, began his demise. I made Bob a coat from a thick wool carpet underlay to help keep him warm. He spent most of his time in the shelter though, so I began to feed him there too. Bob made it through the winter, but in the spring he faltered. He was down and could not get up. I got him up and he rallied, but I found him down again in a few days. Then he was down every day, and finally, he did not have the strength to stand. Of course there was a blizzard then, in April and he was outside. Despite losing a lot of weight, I still could not move poor ol' Bob. So, I covered him with his wool blanket, and then covered that with straw. I did not expect him to last more than that day. But the next morning he was still with me, so I put some snow in his mouth,just to wet his palate, since he had quit eating and drinking. I gave him some lovely alfalfa hay to rest his big head on. Bob passed away. I was so sad to see him go.
There was no evidence that Bob bred any of his ewes. The first date they could have given birth was April 25th and there was no show of udder development or belly swelling. Thomas Tunis was in as a clean up ram after Bob, so the ewes were bred, but if it was by the Tunis, they would not lamb until July.
Then in May, the ewes began to show signs of being in lamb - low large tummies, some udder development. Yay! Bob did leave his mark after all. The ewes all had ewe lambs too, except Tova, the Gotland/BFL, who had twins, one coloured ewe lamb and one white ram lamb. He will be pretty spectacular, I think, with excellent fleece. I will use him next year to breed these ewes, but of course not his mother or the ewe lambs. 7 ewe lambs and one ram lamb!
Every once in a while it is humbling to be touched by such a gentle creature as Bob was. My eyes still well up when I think of him, I loved him so. His presence here was short really, but his legacy is present and in every one of these lambs, there will be a touch of that big, old, fabulous ram. Thanks Bob, for your gifts to the Fat Ewe Farm!