How do you handle an aggressive ram?

WindyIndy

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My ram Chewbaca has gotten very aggressive within the last few months. I always try and watch my back, but he has gotten me before and even cracked my phone screen that was in my pocket.

I know he's just being a ram, but I was wondering how you all handle your rams? I have tried to bring sticks or a horse training stick in with me but that doesn't seem to help, only makes things worse. I have waved my hand or put a leg up when he starts coming at me and that works about a handful of times. Maggie even seems to have given up on calling him off. Someone recommended one of the electric cattle prons,. Have you guys ever used one? I was looking at the kind that you need to push the button to shock them with the hopes that just touching him as a warning before shocking would be enough.

It's gotten to where I'm nervous to go in there, I do tie him up to a post if I need to be in there for a lengthy time, but then he'll come at me as I untie him. I was considering wintering him with my last ram lamb (he's still intact though, so maybe not a good idea?). I liked to winter him with the ewes as I can only have one water heater, meaning I would have to haul buckets all winter for him.

For all I know this is all normal, it's only my second year raising sheep. But any suggestions would be great!
 

luvmypets

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Ok before I start I will say I have dealt with the same issue. Our previous ram Reggie was untrustworthy and often dangerous. He has cracked my phone and bruised my tailbone. But no matter how annoying he was, he was loved by all. He unfortunately passed away at 4 years by a twisted gut, but I have his last son(in my profile pic)

The first step is treating him respect, water often works very well, sheep hate getting wet. A shearer showed us how to flip him(like how they do for hoof trimming) if he got out of hand. You need to teach him you are the boss, he is ramming you to show he is dominant. If he starts making a move to ramming you, find a way to chase him away. The problem with many rams is after they become friendly, they take that as a submissive behavior so to speak. The are like "Hey I'm the boss now!" and then they will ram you. I hope you can work with him, even though you may want him to be friendly, a ram that is running away, is much safer.
 

mysunwolf

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Is he about 18 months old? That's when they usually begin this behavior. It often happens to rams that were friendlier when they were young, but not always. He's definitely dangerous at this stage.

You can try all kinds of things, but in my experience the ram will be deterred by your actions only temporarily. He will try to ram you again someday. As a temporary solution, tying him to the fence is a great option. I correct the ramming behavior by grabbing a ram when he is about to charge me and flipping him onto his butt then holding him there for a while. Just keep doing this until he stops trying to charge you. Like I said, this is only a temporary solution: he may try again later that day, or he may wait and try again in a few months, but he will try again. The only success I have heard of is with the cattle prod, but I have no personal experience with this method.

When my rams get aggressive, we pen them when they are not breeding so that we can still go in with the ewes (it is a pain to haul water separately). And then we butcher them when their services are no longer needed.
 

WindyIndy

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Luvmyoets: I'm sorry about your ram, but glad you have his son. I have Chew's son too that I thought about using, but I have his mothers and half sisters and I know they can't breed half sisters. :(

I have tried water before as I was filling the tanks and that did help, maybe a spray bottle? Sadly he is way to big for me to flip (he's at least 250lbs). I have tried to chase him away, but that only makes things worse, he'll try to come at me harder. As for him being friendly, I would MUCH rather him NOT be friendly! I know you should never have a bottle ram just for that reason.

mysunwolf: Yes he's about 19 months, he will be 2 in March. I do pen him separately until breeding time. I put him in with the ewes in November and separate in March sometime. Last year he was starting to ram my girls bellies so I separated him early March so he wouldn't kill the unborn babies.
That does make since about him keep trying, that exactly how he is now. Sometimes he's a perfect angle, other times not.
He wasn't bottle fed, but his grandma was making his mother very friendly. Since his mama was friendly he was more too. And being so new to rams at the time we made the mistake on petting him while he was growing up. I would not play with his head though, I would try and pet under his chin to keep his head up. Sometimes he would try to 'play ruff' or headbutt me and I would get after him then and he would submit pretty quickly. Sometimes he will submit now, but I think it's only half way because as soon as I turn to leave he'll try and sneak up on me. I try and not baby my animals to where they are brats, I do discipline them, but just wasn't sure if there was a better way with a ram. I'm used to horses, dogs, etc
And are you saying you get a new ram every year?
 

norseofcourse

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Sadly he is way to big for me to flip (he's at least 250lbs).
Supposedly, it's just a matter of leverage, and if you know the right moves it should be easy to take down a ram no matter the size. I know it, I've seen people do it, but I have trouble with the technique, even though my ram is smaller than yours. Do you have anyone close enough that can teach you in person?

I do agree that getting him down and holding him till he stops struggling has a good chance of working. I had to do that several times with Elding (my ram) last year, till he learned the lesson. While I had him down on the ground, I would mutter things like "I am in charge of you" and "I could eat you". Knock on wood, he has behaved himself this year, so far. But I still stay very aware of where he is and how he is acting.

I will also sometimes leash Elding and walk him with me when I'm in with the sheep. He doesn't try to ram me when I have him on a leash, though - sounds like it doesn't stop yours?

Elding does behave much better when it's not breeding season. In January I'll take him out of the ewe's pasture, and he'll live with the ponies again.

I have heard about (but have no personal experience with) things like a spray bottle with water or water/ammonia, and a ram shield (that restricts their forward vision). Maybe @purplequeenvt , @Roving Jacobs or @Sheepshape and other sheep folks can chime in, too.
 

Sheepshape

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Rams can be a challenge, especially when they are adolescents. I have only ever had one ram who I could never trust, and I have to confess to being a 'stroker'.

Firstly you must never show fear for a ram. He is programmed to dominate anything which will let him, and always wants to be Top Ram. You must be Top Ram, and he must show respect.

So he's too big to bring down? I have some Blue Faced Leicesters and they are HUGE, so this is familiar territory (however, BFLs are hardly ever aggressive). Make sure you never turn your back on any 'dubious' ram....he'll exploit the situation....so face him full-frontal.Now, what I'm about to describe is my method, and only try this if you are fairly confident around big animals, as to falter and turn to run away could lead to your being painfully butted.

If you are a 'Happy Slapper' go unarmed, otherwise take a short stick. Stay close to the fence edge, so you can make an escape if you need to. Enter the field and walk confidently.....many rams will take your demeanour as your knowing you are The Boss and won't give you any further trouble. Some will come over slowly, sizing you up. Stand firm and if he starts to put his head down, shout 'No'. This will stop a good many others. The there is the Charger.....he's the tricky on. He will take some steps backwards, head goes down, then he charges full-on in your direction. Side step him when he gets close and at the same time slap him hard across the nose or tap him (not meant to do any damage!) on the nose whilst shouting 'No'. Some rams will re-muster and repeat the ramming, but many don't, and I've never had more than two charges. It's very rare that the ram repeats the 'charge' on subsequent occasions, particularly if you show him the stick/your hand when you next visit the field.

There are, no doubt, some testosterone-fuelled terrors out there. They should not be allowed to breed as aggression is an inherited trait.

Good Luck.
 

Latestarter

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OK, this will sound complicated but it really isn't, and the ram will be doing all the work. But YOU have to be decisive or you could hurt yourself. When he starts eyeing you and doing the ramming preliminaries, face him directly. You don't have to back down or move toward... Just watch for it. When he puts his head down and starts toward you he will not be able to see what you are doing and will be focused on your legs/feet and lower body.

Determine which of your hands and arms has the most strength and strongest grip.

If you're right handed, just as he's getting to you, step slightly back and to your LEFT and bending down slightly, reach across in front of him with your RIGHT arm and grab hold of his left shin and pull down and toward you hard and fast. Let his momentum carry him forward past you. If you need to, you can use your free hand to push him away as he goes past and aid in the outcome.

If you're left handed, Just as he's getting to you, step slightly back and to your right, and bending down slightly, reach across in front of him and grab hold of his RIGHT shin with your left hand and pull down and toward you hard and fast. Let his momentum carry him forward past you. If you need to, you can use your free hand to push him away as he goes past and aid in the outcome.

I doesn't matter how heavy he is or how light you are. He is going to lift that inside leg over your arm and therefore his outside leg that you're holding and trip himself and go a$$ over tea kettle onto his side and you want to go down with him so it ends with you laying on top of him. You need to remember to stop pulling as soon as he starts going over or he'll roll completely and end up back on his feet. DO NOT LET GO OF THE LEG! Ideally you want to smother him and get hold of that other front leg and lock him up/hold him down and under you till he submits and lays still.

If he starts fighting as you start to get off, get right back down on him. When you can safely get up off him without him fighting, then do so and then push both legs away from you so he has to roll away to get up himself. Once he's back on his feet, remain dominant and chase him away, maybe with a nice slap to the rump for good measure. You shouldn't have to do this more than a time or two for him to get the point and have it stick with him for quite a while. HOWEVER...

Once a ram has challenged you that first time, you can NEVER trust him again. You must always remain vigilant as rams have killed people before.

If you're not sure of what I described, have your better 1/2 act like the ram and come toward you so you can practice the move so you'll know what you're doing. Ideally you should have someone recording the entire encounter so you can share it here :D:thumbsup
 

purplequeenvt

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OK, this will sound complicated but it really isn't, and the ram will be doing all the work. But YOU have to be decisive or you could hurt yourself. When he starts eyeing you and doing the ramming preliminaries, face him directly. You don't have to back down or move toward... Just watch for it. When he puts his head down and starts toward you he will not be able to see what you are doing and will be focused on your legs/feet and lower body.

Determine which of your hands and arms has the most strength and strongest grip.

If you're right handed, just as he's getting to you, step slightly back and to your LEFT and bending down slightly, reach across in front of him with your RIGHT arm and grab hold of his left shin and pull down and toward you hard and fast. Let his momentum carry him forward past you. If you need to, you can use your free hand to push him away as he goes past and aid in the outcome.

If you're left handed, Just as he's getting to you, step slightly back and to your right, and bending down slightly, reach across in front of him and grab hold of his RIGHT shin with your left hand and pull down and toward you hard and fast. Let his momentum carry him forward past you. If you need to, you can use your free hand to push him away as he goes past and aid in the outcome.

I doesn't matter how heavy he is or how light you are. He is going to lift that inside leg over your arm and therefore his outside leg that you're holding and trip himself and go a$$ over tea kettle onto his side and you want to go down with him so it ends with you laying on top of him. You need to remember to stop pulling as soon as he starts going over or he'll roll completely and end up back on his feet. DO NOT LET GO OF THE LEG! Ideally you want to smother him and get hold of that other front leg and lock him up/hold him down and under you till he submits and lays still.

If he starts fighting as you start to get off, get right back down on him. When you can safely get up off him without him fighting, then do so and then push both legs away from you so he has to roll away to get up himself. Once he's back on his feet, remain dominant and chase him away, maybe with a nice slap to the rump for good measure. You shouldn't have to do this more than a time or two for him to get the point and have it stick with him for quite a while. HOWEVER...

Once a ram has challenged you that first time, you can NEVER trust him again. You must always remain vigilant as rams have killed people before.

If you're not sure of what I described, have your better 1/2 act like the ram and come toward you so you can practice the move so you'll know what you're doing. Ideally you should have someone recording the entire encounter so you can share it here :D:thumbsup
Having had my arms almost ripped out of their sockets by grabbing at sheep as they run by, I'm not sure I'd recommend this method. Also, most people do not have the agility to grab a sheep's leg and flip it while managing to stay out of the way of it's head and other flying body parts.

I also prefer to rule my ram flock with mutual respect and not an iron fist. I don't want them to be afraid of me, in fact I WANT them to come up to me for attention. I don't want a ram that runs in terror because he thinks he's going to get whacked, shocked, or otherwise hurt for looking at his shepherd wrong. Those rams end up being the most dangerous.

Some people swear by the spray bottle method. I'm not a fan because often the sheep will learn that he only has to behave when you have that object in your hands. Same with a stick or electric prod. Rams aren't stupid.

ALTHOUGH, a couple good zaps can often knock some sense back into a ram that's being stupid. Just don't depend on the prod to deal with him. We had a (purchased) ram get aggressive during breeding season. He was at someone else's farm and he decided to that butting her was a good idea. NOT. Next time she went in the pen she brought her prod. He came after her and got a shock that set him back on his hunches. He tried it again the next day. Same thing. Never again. He's been on his best behavior ever since.

We start training our rams as lambs to be handled. They are halter trained and played around with. Some of them are taken to shows. We never allow them to climb on us or rub their heads on us in play. As a result of how they are raised, they go on to be sweet and gentle, even as adult breeding rams. We sold a ram to a local farm (Shelburne Farms) that is a working farm on a big estate (it's open to public/educational/museum) a couple years ago. He is the biggest puppy ever. He is so gentle and well-mannered that they use him as their hands-on animal. They've even taken him into the city to do educational events with him.

We have also had a number of bottle lambs go on to be excellent (and well-behaved) breeding rams.

In dealing with your current situation, @WindyIndy, you can either send this ram to slaughter and start over or you can try to retrain him.

Don't do anything to antagonize him like spraying him in the face with a spray bottle, waving your hands or kicking at him. Try catching him and flipping him (not while he's charging you. BAD idea. You will get hurt). There is the "professional" way which involves cranking their head back at an angle and applying pressure on the hip to knock them off balance. I'm not great at flipping them like that (you have to be able to do it quickly, otherwise they tense up and it's much harder to tip them) so I tend to hold the head and reach over the top and under them for the opposite rear leg. Pick the leg up and pull. He should go right down (rams can be much harder to tip!). Either leave him laying on his side, keeping pressure on him so he stays down until you let him up OR grab his front legs and pull him up onto his butt. Do this on a regular basis so he gets used to idea of YOU being in charge. It may not fix the problem. Some rams are just mean. No amount of work can fix it.

Another tip is to catch and halter him whenever you are in the pen. He goes wherever you go. If you need both hands to do something, tie him nearby. Then you are able to work safely and he is learning that you are in charge.

Separating him from the ewes is a good idea after breeding season. If he is pushy with them he could easily cause them to lose their lambs. Don't pen him up by himself though. A ram alone in a small pen is a recipe for a mean ram. They get lonely and bored and often end up extremely frustrated and destructive.
 

Bossroo

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I have played all high school sports including football ( quite good as left guard and linebacker ) not to mention the hundreds of rams and a few beef and dairy bulls that I handled, and I would have trouble with it in at least 75% of the time. Yes, I can and did throw many a ram on it's keester but that works until the next time which could be a few minutes , a day / week/ month or two . All they understand is might is power, so I carried a 2' long chain of good diameter that the rams and bulls had great respect for it after being suddenly attacked by it the first time due to their aggressive behavior.
 
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Sheepshape

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I personally don't think showing a ram who is The Boss is all about strength and brutality. Watch rams when they are 'sorting out the pecking order' in a field. A lot of posturing, coming up to each other and sizing each other up, humping and generally treating the other rams as though they are ewes on heat, but not so much real fighting.Unless they are pretty much size-matched, the less dominant ram often concedes defeat and aggressive fighting stops. (I accept this is not always the case).
I am about capable of wrestling a puppy to the ground, but almost always have managed to gain respect without ever resorting to either getting hurt or ever really hurting much more than any ram's pride. A short stick a sharp tap on the nose and a last minute side step (occasionally) have won the day every time (and I have had 50 or so sheep for over 10 years, so I'm not a total greenhorn). The one ram which I had about 5 years ago (Ivor the A***hole) who would always try to be dominant and had a permanent footprint on his unruly forehead was snapped up by my neighbour due to his physical appearance. (Neighbour has several thousand sheep, was made fully aware of his aggressive nature, and was still very keen to have him).
So, confront this young upstart, re-affirm who is Boss, and don't ever pat or rub his head which he may misinterpret (Besides which, at breeding season, they STINK!)

Good Luck
 
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