Back in late Spring, we sold our much-loved Hebridean ram. Scott had done as much for the An Gàrradh Mòr flock as he could : it was time for him to move on, quite literally! – to pastures new. But he’s only a mile and a half away, at Smeircleit, where a young(er-than-us) couple, Richard and Mel, are getting started in the crofting life – including establishing their own registered flock of Hebridean sheep.
However, until Scott is put in with the ewes bought from another Uist breeder, he needs to be kept separately, to avoid untimely pregnancies. It’s not good to keep a ram – or indeed any animal, in our view – on its own, without others of its kind ; but a ram without company can become extremely agitated, and may turn to agressive, destructive, or even self-harming behaviours. Ideally, under these circumstances, he’d have one or more wedders (castrated males) for company, but with none available for that purpose, we offered the loan of one our shearling rams (those just over a year old – and recently sheared for the first time) – in fact the smallest and therefore most submissive ram in the flock – as companion. The littl’un can stay there until November, when Scott will go to the ewes, and the littl’un will be sent ‘to Lochmaddy’ – with our other hogget lambs.
Scott has been much more settled with the littl’un than he was on his own, and the littl’un himself seems to have flourished, promoted to 2nd rank, behind only Scott himself : back at our own croft, he would be at the back of the queue behind Scott and four others.
He’s grown enormously – he’s now nearly as big as Scott, though he seems careful to avoid body language that might suggest a challenge to Scott’s primacy. He keeps a safe distance from Scott, and yet is never more than a few metres from him : they need each other.
Denise and I pass the field where the two boys are kept on our way to the Co-op in Daliburgh or to Eight Askernish, and from time to time we’ve stopped by to see how they’re getting on – though strictly it’s now just the littl’un that’s our concern. Richard and Mel look in on them both each day.
But then came an email from Richard. The littl’un had lost one of his horns. Or rather, most of his left horn had broken off. He seems to have got the horn entangled in the bars of the gate, and for some reason panicked, and in the struggle to get free had broken the horn – a few inches from its base. He’d certainly lost some blood – and no doubt it had been painful, but by the time we got to him, the blood had congealed and he seemed to have adjusted to the lopsided weights either side of his head!
The littl’un has always been destined for the abattoir and the freezer, but that’s not to say that we wouldn’t rather that he enjoyed the best possible life until then. I’m glad that neither Denise or I found him with the horn broken off and the stump bleeding!