Most of the year the rams at Beersheba Farm live in bachelor flocks. Then, when the days shorten and the ewes… cycle…. the rams get their chance to live with the ladies for a few weeks. Hormones rage (!) and then… they have to go back to the bachelor flock and maybe come face-to-face with the rams who didn’t get their chance that year as well the rams who were in with other ewe flocks.
In this high-testosterone atmosphere there are fights. And there can be deaths. So we, as farmers, have to undertake procedures to avoid this. Losing a ram from a brain aneurysm is not something I want to have happen again.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see rams fighting you will know that they will back up and then charge at each other, hitting heads with great force. (Which is why we have expressions such as ram-raid and battering ram) You can often pick when they are preparing for breeding season – they repeatedly bash trees to tone-up their strength!!
So, when you take the rams from the ewes and the territorial hormones are still flowing strongly you can get fireworks. The way I diffuse this as much as possible is to cram the rams that will be in the bachelor group all together in a small yard, mixing any just-got-demoted-Romeos and the we-missed-out-wannabe-Romeos.
This achieves two things: a) they rub their scents all over each other, so there is less “us vs them”; and b) they don’t have room to back up and charge each other. They can still swing their heads into each others shoulders/ribs/butt but it won’t have the same force as a full-throttle attack.
A couple of hours later and they are usually pretty chilled. There may be a bit of bravado here and there but the “kill on sight” reflex has been dulled. I like to them put them out in their paddock with a nice, attention-diverting snack too.
And as a side-note: everyone sort of expects that rams with horns are worse behaved…. well, not in my experience. Certainly, they can do a really nasty side-maneuver that polled breeds can’t BUT they aren’t Super Rams. In fact, the only ram I have ever lost in a fight was a horned ram – and he lost to a polled one. My theory is that a glancing blow to a horned ram causes more torsion or uneven force on the skull which can result in more internal damage.