When the older dominant rams joined the bachelor group again in January, we all got to rough it up again for fun. At least they seemed to think it was fun.
Winter dragged on for months. We dug in the snow for forage treats, trimmed the willows in our pasture, ate nice leafy alfalfa hay, and tried to avoid getting licked by those huge dogs. In early April, we headed back to the barn to get sheared and weighed again. They compared our weights from fall and looked very closely at our general condition. If you came out of winter weak compared to your brother, you got a yellow tag. I know one ram had a parasite load and didn’t look good. He got tagged.
After the snow goes away and the sun warms the ground, it is game on! Our job seems to be to eat the forbs the cows don’t want, like Ox Eye Daisy, Canadian Thistle, Leafy Spurge, and Knapweed, as well as the overabundance of clover.
Now is the time to put on weight! If you don’t gain fast now, you are not a player. You have until July to prove you are one of the breeder quality rams. By mid-July the rest of the tags get handed out. Everyone gets a tag. The ugly yellow tag is not good though. The other tags are colorful and have lots of official printing. To get that special tag, you need to be the best. You need to be a SOLID ram in structure, size, attitude, and have exceptional fleece quality. Less that 10% of the guys get the sporty tag. The shepherds talk about being ‘with the program’. Nobody gets pampered or given a crutch like getting wormer. If you don’t perform compared with your peers, you get the yellow tag and off you go to different pastures – or that’s the rumor.
So now at 15 months old, you finally learn if you made the cut and are sporting some colorful ear candy. The yellow tags are gone and everyone in the pasture has a different colored tag based on how old they are. From time to time one of the boys gets loaded with a group of ewes and leaves the ranch. They always seem pleased, so I’m guessing it is a good thing. I wonder what comes next. It looks like I made the cut.