So the other day, S calls me at work to tell me that she has a friend who wants to breed to my ram. Hmmm. THIS is interesting. I never really thought about this concept. I have Trinity to make next year's roasts and lamb chops. I'd keep him anyway, because I really like this ram. He's even-tempered, easy to handle, kindly to my ewes, has marvelous wool, and, as an added bonus, is (IMO) very handsome. In a strictly platonic, sheep-type way, you understand. Moreover, he settled 100% of my ewes last year (one third of whom were unproven). S and R have some objections to him - mainly, that he's a Shetland, which means he isn't a giant ram, and his offspring are therefore on the smaller end. OTOH, they've had other rams at their farm, and some of them have been right bastards. One of them escaped his pen and, whilst R was fixing the fence, ran her down repeatedly; she finally had to pepper-spray him to get him off her back. Literally.
Having run the numbers more than once, S has determined that the only way to be profitable in a small sheep operation in Alaska is to keep small-ish, thrifty ewes who are good mothers, breed them to a ram lamb of a larger, meat-producing breed, and then to slaughter and eat the ram lamb once breeding season is over. This means you don't support a non-productive animal over the winter, and that when your ewes are open, they're smaller, thriftier animals who don't require a lot of feed for upkeep. In the spring, the meat-cross lambs are born (typically without difficulty, as the Shetlands ewes usually lamb easily) and rapidly gain size at a rate that outstrips that possible for Shetlands. Because Shetlands are generally good mothers, and produce reasonable quantities of milk, they generally don't have trouble rearing twins, even if the twins ARE bigger than standard Sheltands.
However... despite all these reasoned and sensible arguments, I just can't go for it. Maybe it's sentimental, but I can't bring myself to even consider slaughtering Trinity. For one thing, he's genetically distant from the other Shetlands up here; most everything else in the area (Shetland-wise) is somewhat related, since it's a geographically isolated population. Trinity was imported specifically to address this issue. You kinda hate to lose that. For another thing.... I just really LIKE this ram.
I'm not the only one. My shearer said two things about Trinity: One, "What an easy ram! I never shear one that behaves this well." And, "Man, this is nice fleece; you should enter this in the fair." Even S and R admit that he's a nice ram, and easy to tend and keep.
Oh... and have I mentioned that he's a handsome beast?
However, it hasn't escaped my notice that I am pretty much just eating most of Trinity's offspring, which sort of dead-ends his genetic usefulness. So it was kind of nice to think that someone else might want to take advantage of his genetics - someone, moreover, who is interested in fiber production, which means that his young will be hanging around for a while, and possibly one day producing young of their own, thus perpetuating his genes.
Meanwhile, S suggested to her friend that maybe I'd consider bartering for my stud fee. Hmmm. Interesting concept. As it happens, I have no idea what to ask for a stud fee. Apart from which, I've learned (after 13 years in the Greatland) that there are any number of people up here who have all kinds of interesting skills, talents, and various resources. Hence barter is something that is sort of culturally satisfying, as well as potentially profitable in ways that a cash exchange is not.
The upshot of all this that S and R's friend is bringing over her ewe, two bales of hay, and five range-reared organic chickens, already butchered and wrapped and ready for my freezer. Trinity - and here, put on your "surprised" face - is more than content to do his bit without payment of any sort. We plan to put her ewe in with my flock for two breeding cycles. The hay is for her upkeep and S and R's trouble, and the chickens are for the use of Trinity's testicles (and all associated apparatus).
Meanwhile, I had kept out Trinity's daughter from this year, Gigantor, to hold her open this year. I know plenty of people breed ewe lambs their first season, and probably that would've been the easy thing to do; however, I'm a big fat chicken when it comes to things like that, so I thought I might just let her finish her growth before I bred her for the first time. However, on the tenth, Trinity made himself a hole in the fence and made his way into the goat pen, where Gigantor is vacationing until breeding season is over. That may be of no real import. Or it may be that Gigantor will be lambing with the rest of them come spring. Best laid plans, and all that. So to speak.
So, I've now entered the world of breeding for profit, albeit in a (very) small, barter-oriented way. This seems like a good deal for this year, at least, and possibly for future years. It also opens up the possibility of sending Trinity off to breed wool babies at another farm next year whilst I buy, use and butcher a meat ram for my own ewes next year, a plan that fills S and R with anticipatory glee. This all leaves me with only one burning question.
Does this mean I'm a pimp now?