Love is in The Air
by Pauline, Bride Valley Shepherdess
Love is in the air in the Bride Valley Vineyard as three handsome Charollais rams have been introduced to Bella’s flock. The ‘tups’ (a Medieval word for a ram in possession of all his functions) will live with our ewes for around five weeks.
However, it’s not as simple as introducing them all and hoping for the best. Each ewe will be receptive to a ram’s advances for just 24 hours every 17 days. A ram detects whether the ewe is keen by curling his upper lip, which is particularly sensitive to hormones. This is known as the Flehmen response. It’s a sheep thing, and always very amusing to observe.
The flock of thirty-nine ewes will now stay in the vineyard for the rest of winter. The vines provide food for the ewes, who in return fertilise the chalky, shallow soil. Then in early spring the flock will be moved into the wood, where it is sheltered. They forage and we supplement their feed with hay that was cut last summer. It’s a wonderfully symbiotic relationship and the diversity of the land here in the valley allows us to really work with the seasons.
And so, the sheep farmer’s year is well under way and if all goes to plan, we’ll hear the pitter patter of little hooves In May! As Shepherd John says: “A fertile tup and a listening pup make Shepherd a happy man!”