Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Windswept Unicorn

Every day I like this guy a little bit more.
"Uni" came with quite a bit to recommend him: fantastic horns, incredible fleece, powerful shoulder, straight top line, tiny tail...
But for some reason I wasn't smitten with him immediately. I've been trying to figure out why for some time now.
Part of it might be that he is so BIG. My other two rams are a bit more compact with refined bone. Uni is massive-for a Shetland. I know his coat adds to the effect. But still, his size intimidates me. I try not to let him know this.
Uni also came with an intimidating attitude. I think that might be the real reason why I hadn't started warming up to him until recently. Because we use electronet and move it every few days, I need sheep that are respectful enough to deal with me being in their space. I like them to stand back out of my way. But I also want them to stand still with their chins up when I walk directly toward them on days I need to handle them. Kavan and his sire, Allister, consistently behave this way. They are a joy to work with-even though I remember they are rams and that they would take advantage if they got the chance. Rams are rams.
Unfortunately, Uni was not as well behaved as his fellow rams. And he didn't "catch on" to standard procedure around here on his own. He crowded me way too much, and when I put my hand out to steer him away he'd put his head down as if to butt my hand. NOT o.k. Clearly, this young ram did not know the rules: I'm boss! It got to the point where I didn't really like him at all.
Yet Clancy kept telling me what a good looking boy he was. While Uni never committed any great act of aggression, I did feel he wanted to all the time. I finally decided something had to be done. So a couple of days ago I asked Clancy to follow me into the pen and throw him down for me. All the poor dude did was bob his head once and the next thing he knew he was flat on his side with a snarling man sitting on his chest. I came over and yelled "NO!" and "GIT!" a few times right up in his face for good measure. Allister came up to see about the commotion and I bumped him out of the way with my hip. (I have lots of confidence handling Alli-Oop and Kaveman.) He went back to the other side of the pen like a good ram. I filled the salt feeder and changed the water bucket while Clancy sat on the big guy. When I was out of the pen he climbed off and controlled Uni while he got back on his feet. Then he steered him around for a few minutes-as in: "You go where I tell you to go." Then he released him.
Uni has been very polite since that day. He no longer crowds me when I change the water bucket. He stands back and moves away when I walk toward him. This is not ideal. I'd like him to let me scratch his chin if I choose to. But I think that will take time. Having him fear me is a better situation than me fearing him. I'm just glad to see he is capable of learning respect. We don't necessarily need to be friends if he doesn't want to be.
With Uni taken down a notch, I've been appreciating him more. He has some exceptional qualities to offer my flock. I even toy with the idea of using him on almost all the girls this year to see what he can do. No doubt I'll change my mind a hundred times before Thanksgiving. But it's nice to be considering Uni again as a ram of choice. He's stunning when he's minding his manners.


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Good for you -- and good for Uni! (And kudos to the helpful husband :-) Sounds like an all-around, well-thought-out, well-executed, successfully completed plan. BTW, do you have any photos of all three rams together? You've got me curious on his size.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

I looked through archives tonight, and I couldn't find any side-by-side comparisons. But now I know what I'll do next time I borrow the camera.

It's not so much that Uni towers over the other two-but he has larger bone mass and heavier muscling. Even his legs and hooves seem heavier than the other two rams. I wonder if that will show in the photo or if it's more of an "in person" thing?

Sorry I can't post a photo right away.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think I know what you mean. My two lambs are that way. Even though Braveheart is younger and considerably smaller than Brava, his legs are so much more substantial, they make hers look like toothpicks. I keep waiting for the rest of him to catch up!

Garrett808 said...

Sabrina, I do indeed like Uni's fleece. What an interesting crimp or wave to his fleece and it was like that the entire way down his fleece. I have been to Heather Ludlam's farm and I must admit her animals are more substantial so would assume that Uni is right up there with the rest of her flock? I looked at a yearling ewe form her and she was larger than my mature ewes. But then again Gail V said mine look so tiny compared to hers too. To each is own :)