Whilst we were away in Navarra, Becky – in one of her regular reports on the sheep – mentioned that she thought Queenie was looking older. (Queenie is our Alpha-Female ewe – undisputed leader of the flock.) At the time, I wondered what Becky’s opinion was based on, since it was ten months since she’d last regularly seen Queenie. But then it occurred to me that that might be the very reason why she would notice such a thing – and I would not.
I’ve been rummaging through about 14,000 photos (Google Photos helpfully tells me) going back to late 2009 – when Queenie arrived at The Big Garden Croft, there was no photo to be found of her which would help with a then-and-now comparison. Alas, then, this post is not after all going to invite you to take part in a Queenie – Spot the Difference competition!
Queenie’s fleece has, these days, got a lot of grey in it, it is true, but that’s been ongoing for at least three years. (I certainly do notice that : at shearing time each year, Denise and I extensively debate the character of our sheep’s fleeces!).
The greying around her nose is more recent, however, and perhaps that’s accelarated this year.
Taking time to watch her over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed something else – a loss of confidence and vigour : it’s noticeable in her behaviour – especially in relation to some of the other sheep, in her demeanour, and I do believe I can see something just in her expression. Whether it’s a health issue – which could be short-lived and treatable, or the loss of status to a younger, more vigorous and bolder ewe, is not clear. If it’s the latter, then there might be one or two younger ewes who are vying for superiority, and they simply elbow* Queenie out of the way. (There’s a few two or three year old ewes who did not go to the abattoir with the other hogget lambs, but were kept back to join the breeding flock)
* That’s metaphorical : they use their horns, of course – but it’s a similar action to ‘elbowing’
If she is indeed being increasingly challenged by one or more younger ewes, then I suspect I know who they might be ; and when I’m a bit surer, I’ll be back with a report and some photos. In the meantime, I give you our much respected, much loved Queenie.