In discussing rams, I feel it necessary to first warn you about rams in general. Rams can be dangerous, and after years of breeding sheep we have decided that there are too many good-tempered rams out there to risk harm in keeping an aggressive ram on our premises. We have also seen that demeanor is a heritable trait. One year we bred half our ewes to our 1st ram, Zeus – an aggressive ram, and half to our 2nd ram, Karloff – a sweet and gentle ram. As both their lambs grew close to weaning age (3 months) we could pick out which ram lambs were Zeus’s or Karloff’s by how they watched us and acted toward us. No matter how correct or beautiful a ram is, he’s not worth the risk of injury to you or the risk of passing on those aggressive traits in his offspring.
Breeding sheep can be done in multiple ways. Shepherds who are wary of keeping a ram on their farm full-time may choose to lease a ram for the breeding season or send their ewes to another farm to be bred. A few choose to artificially inseminate (AI) their ewes. Many other shepherds prefer to keep only 1 ram on their farm and trade or purchase a new ram when they deem it necessary. There are still other shepherds who keep a couple to several rams on their farm.
We have had between 1 and 3 rams on the farm at once over the years. Keeping a single ram doesn’t mean he should be alone, and experts warn that keeping a ram by himself may cause him to become aggressive. A wether (castrated male) is a great companion animal for the single ram. The wether will keep keep him company and won’t fight with the ram for dominance.
If you plan to keep more than 1 ram on your farm at a time and don’t want to or don’t have room to keep them in separate areas, you will need to introduce them in a small pen or stall – like a lambing jug (stall).
When rams fight for dominance, they back up, then run and headbutt (or ram) each other. By putting them in a small area you’re taking away the space they need to back up and gain momentum before ramming. They will still headbutt each other but you have greatly reduced the risk of serious injury.
This introduction period can take a day or 2. We check on the rams throughout the day to monitor behavior, every couple to few hours – depending on how they are getting along. After they work our their pecking order we send them out to pasture, but we still check on them a few times a day at first. If we witness fighting, they go back into a stall for another day. **If you introduce rams in hot weather – put a fan on them. They will be hot from pushing each other around.**
Sometimes rams can’t get along, and need to be kept separate. You would need to decide if you have room to meet those needs on your farm.
Now that you have your rams together, you may think they will always get along. This, however, is not the case. Anytime the rams are apart for a period, they need to be reintroduced in the same way. i.e., after breeding season. It is also necessary to pen them after shearing. Although they both smell the same, they look very different and need time to assert dominance in a safe space.
After weaning, we sometimes move our ram lambs to the ram pasture. We bring the adult rams and lambs together in the barn first to see how they react to each other. The adult rams may not react to the lambs in the same way they would react to another adult ram. It usually depends on the age and size of the lambs, though. Larger and more mature lambs may need to learn their place in the pecking order of the group, while smaller lambs may naturally assume a lower spot in the order.