The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: Anvia on October 13, 2019, 11:47:46 pm

Title: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 13, 2019, 11:47:46 pm
Hallo all!

Sooooo.....help, advice and experience asked for please.

We have too much grass, it was hoped & planned for but we erred on the overly cautious side with our planning & have created an entirely new issue for ourselves- that of doing too much pasture renovation and not being able to adequately graze the areas which we canít get the tractor up to.

We have alpacas, lots of alpacas - gorgeous beautiful creatures who really donít need much in the way of grazing .., so we have taken the decision to re-introduce sheep or we are going to lose control on our steeper tractor inaccessible slopes.

So, we have bought some sheep and are in various stages of bucket training - (short story = dogs are not an option, the long version is dull & ends up in the same place... = dogs are not an option)

Does anyone have any experience of keeping rams with alpacas?

We have two recently acquired tups , two different breeds - one enjoys charging stuff... the other seems baffled by his companions desire to hit his head repeatedly on solid objects.... (they were already companions when we bought them - theyíve lived together for 3 years or so) but they are different breeds and we will need to separate them to be with their respective lady loves....

So one ram is in great condition and ready to join up with his ladies in the very near future.... heís in danger if being tooo well fed.... but the other is skinny - way too skinny and we need to get him in better condition - preferably without feeding his companion.....

Sooo..... we have 5 very experienced lifelong sheep guardian alpacas..... can we pop our skinny ram ( the horned headbanger ) in with the alpacas for company & access to excellent grazing & protection from the alpacas who are already experienced sheep guardians?)  my concern is our lovely new headbanger ram... will he attempt to charge the alpacas?

I am concerned about potential injuries the ram could inflict upon the alpacas whilst we improve his overall health... heís horned and loves to bash stuff with his head, Iím concerned about those delicate alpaca legs.... - but equally sheeps & pacas also appear to get along.... does anyone have any relevant experience they would be kind enough to share?

I donít want to put the welfare of our alpacas at risk, but we have also experienced how mutually beneficial the ewe / alpaca guardian bond is. Can anyone help me with their experience of rams (particularly horned headbangers) with alpacas? Our alpacas are valuable to us in their own right and as flock guardians - has anyone got any experience of alpacas as companions and guardians to rams / tups ?

We donít want to endanger the welfare of either; alpacas or sheep. We do have enough land to fence everyone off, but these are herd animals  - and we have no wish to expose our limited number of sheep to vulnerability/ companion / herd stress issues....

Does anyone have experience of using alpacas as companions / guardians for rams/ tups?

Many thanks!
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: bj_cardiff on October 14, 2019, 07:19:08 am
No experience of sheep and alpaccas I'm afraid but some Rams are just a nightmare, if you have any slight concerns about injury to the alpaccas don't do it..

To be perfectly honest, if the one ram is underweight at this time of year for no apparent reason I wouldn't use him for breeding, I would cull now and use the one ram with all of the ewes.

I wouldn't be happy keeping one ram with a group of aplaccas, but would think two would be fine (depending on their individual personalities). My two rams live with horses out of season - they just ignore each other.
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Buttermilk on October 14, 2019, 08:44:36 am
I would want to know why the ram is underweight.  Has he got a parasite problem?  If so are they resitant to the current drugs used on him. he could be introducing resistant worms onto your pasture.  This could become a problem with all your sheep.

If he likes to bash things then I suspect the alpacas will not be safe around him.
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: harmony on October 14, 2019, 08:57:56 am

You don't say what breed? And I would get an egg count done if you plan to keep him. Given you are probably looking at using him in the next three weeks you aren't going to improve his condition greatly in that time.


The head banging could be due to the fact tupping time is on the horizon and once he goes in with the ewes it wont be a problem.


Will he butt the alpacas? Who knows but as you say delicate legs.
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anke on October 14, 2019, 09:16:39 am
Don't risk it - there will be an underlying health problem with the skinny boy, and as others have said - cull is the safest and probably kindest (to him as well as your Alpacas) option. Sentimentality does not help, get a friendly wether companionn (or two ro three) for your tup for when he is not in with the ewes, and your problem is solved. Doesn't sound that you are short of grass, and wethers do not need additional feeds, especially if you go for a traditional breed like Shetlands (if wethered as lambs they do not grow horns, just little scurs).
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: shep53 on October 14, 2019, 10:02:31 am
Agree with every one ,why is he skinny  ? internal parasites which as others have said can contaminate the pasture  ( were they wormed before or upon arrival ? ) or  has he slack or lost teeth so that eating is difficult no matter how much grass he has ?    You don't say how many ewes you have ? so can one ram cope .  Personally I would not want the ram as to lean ( maybe always been lean ) so lambs may be rubbish  and why would you want  a ram that attacks every thing  including maybe children and adults ???
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: SallyintNorth on October 14, 2019, 11:29:10 am
Please tell me you are not bucket-training entire tups, especially one thatís horned and likes to bash things...  :o

Iíve no experience on the alpaca-with-tups question, sorry.  You might get more answers to that element in the camelids boards, in that everyone there has or knows about camelids, and may or may not have had experience with sheep with them, but not all be on the sheep boards.

I echo everyone elseís concern about why the skinny tup is skinny at this time of year.  Was he skinny when you got him?  Was he head banging when you got him?  What did the seller say about all that?

If your head banger spends all his time bashing things and no time eating, that might explain his skinniness, as would heís already worked the sellerís ewes before he came to you.  But if he bashes things when it isnít tupping time, that raises other questions!
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 14, 2019, 12:21:01 pm
Thanks all, Sally - no not bucket training tups!

So, seller was very up front that he had generally neglected him, he was on the poorest grazing & he hadnt been as vigilant as he should have been on his worming. Heíd got no ewes for him and heíd ended up being forgotten about. We saw a fair few of what the seller said were his offspring and they looked fine. Genetics I canít change, but condition can be worked on in time.

So both boys are currently in quarantine, theyíve both been wormed & we will be monitoring that. Neither will leave until we are confident they arenít bringing resistant worms or any other nasties onto our pastures.

Behaviour wise, our healthier tup is a ryeland and I suspect any breed compared to a ryeland is going to look more behaviourally challenging! Our headbanger is welsh mountain and weíve put his behaviour mainly down to it being tupping season.

So far..... heís been respectful of humans, heís been easy enough to handle and very tolerant of being prodded & poked whilst weíve been trying to decide what his issues are. Heís mostly giving the gates a good bashing - these gates are the only point where he can see other sheep from. Our neighbours run huge numbers of sheep all around us & itís tupping season.... so we are working on the theory heís responding to the fact itís tupping season and wants to get to work. I should probably be grateful heís keen!

I think he & I may have different priorities - I think he needs his condition building up & he wants to get out & meet the ladies. We are still very much running on starter numbers, weíve only got 10 or so ewes for him, and thereís no hurry to get him working this year (he may not agree there!) & little danger of being overworked if he does get that far, but, assuming we move them on from quarantine, Iím happy to let the ryeland go in with his ewes, which would leave the welsh tup on his own - at this stage as youíve all rightly picked up we have more concerns over what he might be carrying that we donít want here.... & if heís got something unpleasant the chances are that the ryeland does too.... however he has been much better cared for, if anything heís carrying a little extra weight.

My issue is managing companionship, at this time we think we understand the reasons behind their differences in condition & behaviour Im hoping we are correct & we havenít just landed ourselves with a plague ridden psychopath! If so, he wonít be here much longer & Iíll still need to solve my companion problem for the ryeland when he comes out

Thanks all - I think Iíll keep them well away from the alpacas for now - not worth the risk & look into wethers...

I always find my issue with starter numbers are that I end up buying companions for the companions!



Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: twizzel on October 14, 2019, 12:33:50 pm
It takes 6 weeks on good grass to put on 1 condition score so the likelihood is heís not going to be in the right condition for tupping before December, if heís as thin as you make out. My tups have been on poor old permanent pasture all summer and still maintained condition. Have you checked his teeth??


 I would either turn both rams out with their respective ewes at the same time and monitor the thin one, or give the ryeland all the ewes and cull the welsh, or youíll have a long drawn out lambing?
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 14, 2019, 01:07:21 pm
Thanks twizzel. Yes teeth & jawline appear fine. We think heís probably a poor 2 in terms of condition, Iím happy to hang on until December and give him a good chance of putting on condition if he can. We will definitely know more about his future by December, but I donít want to put the ryelands at a disadvantage either...

Does anyone have any advice regarding tupping ryelands as late as December? Should I be concerned about flies with a May lambing? We can lamb inside - thatís not a problem, Iím concerned about running lambing too close to shearing - I donít want to increase their risks for flystrike, but yes Iíd rather keep lambing as tight as I can.
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: shep53 on October 14, 2019, 01:35:09 pm
Since your ram only has 10 ewes to serve then I wouldn't be too bothered about his leanness if you really want to use him , put both rams out on 5th nov to start lambing 1st april , he will then of had 3weeks on good grass . When they talk about rams being in good condition pre tupping they may have 50 to 100 ewes to serve so will lose condition .  Since you said both rams ran together for 3yrs then both were on very poor grass and yet the Ryland did well , are they different age's eg Ryland 4yrs and the welsh older  ( welsh mountain are breed to thrive on poor ground )
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 14, 2019, 02:28:13 pm
Thanks for your reply shep,
The welsh is 4 & the ryeland 3, both proven, If I remember correctly both were bred by the seller but used on different ewes, so they have been together in various combinations (along with other rams) at the same farm over the past 3 years.

My (logical - or so I thought!) assumption was that all the tups would have been on the same grass too but apparently not, the ryelands & ryeland xís had all been on better grazing for the last few months in anticipation of using them this year. The ryeland seems to be in great condition.

Thanks for the advice re-November tupping - we have a lot to learn about sheep & I donít want to knock him back any further, I donít have enough experience to know if ten ladies is ten too many!
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: twizzel on October 14, 2019, 03:48:49 pm
With lambing in May the flies can be an issue depending on where you are. But if you want to lamb earlier in the year the next year it can be hard to bring the ewes forward (I.e if they lamb late, they are weaned later, and subsequently can be cycling later too).


If you do want to use him, the vet can always fertility test him to see if heís up to tupping. Then if he fails the test you can decide what to do earlier rather than later. Thatís probably what I would do  :thumbsup: [size=78%] [/size]
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anke on October 14, 2019, 05:52:56 pm
Please tell me you are not bucket-training entire tups, especially one thatís horned and likes to bash things...  :o
How else are you going to move a tup without a dog? All of mine are bucket trained... and as long as they have enough respect not to barge into me (and you never turn your back on them ever) they are fine. My boy was hitting the fence post the other day, no idea why, but he is back to his calm self now...
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Scarlet.Dragon on October 14, 2019, 06:08:39 pm
Shep53 is right... you aren't serving enough to take condition off him and once they're all served, the hormones will settle down and he'll be more likely to put weight on when he's not trying to attract female attention and get at them... unless your neighbour still has hundreds of cycling females around!
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 14, 2019, 09:52:38 pm
Thanks twizzel,
I hadnít got as far as thinking about the following year!

In good news I think Iíve got to the bottom of the gate bashing, despite my best efforts to quarantine these two boys as far away as possible from our ewes - he canít be all that bad looking! one of the neighbours sheep clearly fancies him enough to get past a couple of fences.... sheís been sent home & he seems to have calmed down.

Anke / Sally - We sourced our rams together to be companions (I thought Iíd cracked the companion thing there!) from owners who bred them and have never worked them with dogs, they are already ďtrainedĒ.... well, they know no different! They have only ever known a dog-less handling system, yes we have to learn to work with them and our understanding of that how they will respond to what cue. So far itís been fine - so far theyíve moved easily to where we wanted them to go & weíve been able to handle them & administer wormers ect.  We are bucket training our ewes though, itís new to some of them, and Iíd like that to be better established before we tup. Our ewes are well away from the rams and various fields whilst we work on that. At the moment handling them isnít my issue - itís what to do in the best interests of this particular rams health.

Scarlett dragon - thanks for your reassurance - I think we currently have hundreds of cycling females completely surrounding us! Not much I can do there, but I do think thatís the explanation for his gate bashing.... Do you think serving a few of his own even in poor condition would be better than keeping him completely away from the ewes? Is the frustration likely to run him down more than if we just let him get on with it?

Again thanks to all - I appreciate you all taking the time to answer all my questions & share your wisdom & experience.
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: SallyintNorth on October 14, 2019, 10:34:37 pm

I think we currently have hundreds of cycling females completely surrounding us! Not much I can do there, but I do think thatís the explanation for his gate bashing.... Do you think serving a few of his own even in poor condition would be better than keeping him completely away from the ewes? Is the frustration likely to run him down more than if we just let him get on with it?


If there are ewes around about and he can smell them, heís much less likely to settle and eat.  Personally Iíd put him with the ten ewes as soon as heís got the all-clear on any health checks and is okay from a lambing date perspective.  Ten ewes will give him an average of a little more than one every other day, so not much work at all really, and he will be much more settled in with his own harem, and hopefully will eat better in between working.  Once heís served all ten, you might find he reverts to bashing gates and demanding his next batch, but some tups will stay settled in with their ladies.

Heís lucky to have found a home with people who take as much care as you to meet their stockís psychological needs :)  :hug:
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 15, 2019, 10:23:23 am
Awwww - thank you Sally! - we do try - I find it makes life easier, happier & healthier all around.

Iím pleased to say today he is calm & cheerfully munching away, Iím working on the assumption it was the neighbours ewe whoíd got him all het up.

Again thanks to all! Very grateful for your experience & help!
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Scarlet.Dragon on October 15, 2019, 03:18:35 pm
I concur with Sally!!!  Hormones upset the boys terribly but if "all is well in their world and the girls taken care of" they will settle down to eat.
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anke on October 15, 2019, 06:29:46 pm
I concur with Sally!!!  Hormones upset the boys terribly but if "all is well in their world and the girls taken care of" they will settle down to eat.
I didn't know you had sheep now as well - what breed have you got then?
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: landroverroy on October 15, 2019, 06:34:53 pm
But I can't help thinking - why would you want to put a Welsh ram to your ewes when you have a Ryeland that will give much better lambs?
I get the companion bit. But why not  get a couple of store lambs for company that'll actually put on weight and value on your grass, and then sell them fat in a few months time when fat prices are up. Presumably you didn't pay much for your Welsh tup. But he's never going to be worth much more than you paid for him, so I would just put him in for meat, and buy something worth having as a companion.  I'm not convinced that a 4 year old welsh ram should be in poor condition because of lack of worming. He should have built up a fair immunity by now and  that is another reason why I'd want rid ASAP.   
Title: Re: Rams & companions
Post by: Anvia on October 16, 2019, 01:52:51 pm
He really canít be that bad! Iíve just evicted four more ewes who think heís worth breaking in for.... well itís keeping me fit I suppose.... & Iím learning - if I can hear the gate being rattled it means he has visitors!

Landroverroy - yes he was priced realistically & realistically he may well end up as cull.... & we do have the option of the ryeland, The current ďplanĒ (I donít know why I bother - ha ha!) wasnít to aim to crossbreed, but that option is very much open - I am now the optimistic owner of many many colours of raddle.... & having two tups hopefully means we stand a chance of one being fertile..... There are plenty of things to go wrong still! Assuming :fc: heís not carrying any kind of evil plague Iím happy to give him a chance and try him with our ewes - providing it wonít harm either. & Iím feeling far more reassured about letting him have a go (assuming he gets through quarantine).

Assuming  :fc:  he comes good- In terms of genetic diversity heís probably only got a season or two with us anyway... weíve yet to discover if either ram is capable & neither has a certain future at this moment!  - we may end up needing no companions..... mind you the same goes for our ewes they are all unknown to us too. We are working with a lot of unknown variables.
Heís perky enough (& apparently very desirable to the neighbours lady sheeps!) & heís grazing in a helpful place - so thatís all good for now.

Iím sure heís not the first tup to be shunted off to a far distant corner of someoneís farm on the least useful piece of land & be generally be forgotten about - I do hear your warning though.... thank you - neither will be leaving quarantine unless we believe all is well.