Last Tuesday was the end of breeding. We leave the rams in with the ewes for just three weeks, which is a bit more than one estrus cycle and usually enough for all the ewes to get pregnant. If any ewes don’t get pregnant on the first round, we’ve learned from past experience that we’d rather miss out on a couple of pregnancies than spend the end of March and beginning of April waiting for those last few lambs to be born! During breeding season, rams revved up on testosterone will fight with any other ram they encounter–after all whoever wins the fight gets the girls! This is not an issue when we are breeding the sheep, because we put just one ram with each group of ewes, so we know the pedigree of all the lambs that are born. But on the day we remove the rams from the ewes, they are pretty cranky, even murderously so. Rams fight by backing up an astonishing distance, and then charging straight at each other, heads lowered, and crashing skulls. I once heard a story from a woman who put her two best rams together after breeding, turned her back for a minute, heard a skull-shattering crash and looked back to see one of her best rams dead on the ground. To prevent our rams killing each other, we fit them with “ram shields,” leather masks that keep them from being able to see straight ahead. You can’t back up 30 paces and charge straight into your opponent if you can’t see him! But over the years we have had rams pull off their shields on the fence, and get into some pretty bad fights. This year Lisa said she had heard that some ranchers keep their rams in very tight quarters until they simmer down and decide that maybe they won’t try to kill each other. We decided to play it safe, and put our three rams, Pistol, Harry and Joe, in a box stall in our barn. We dressed them in ram shields for good measure. They spent the first day shoving each other, shoulder to shoulder, but those aren’t death-blows. Now after five days they are settling down, almost back to being “the three amigos”again. Maybe they will get sprung free tomorrow.