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Monday, June 6, 2016

Wild Flock System (Modified Multi-Sire Management)

I have never been one to do things the way people say to. This has shown itself in multiple aspects of my life. For the last seven or eight years now I have been keeping a small flock of Jacob sheep to help with land management while providing meat for the freezer, beautiful sheepskin rugs, and wool. Actually I made a tiny block of cheese this year from some Jacob milk, but that's besides the point! :) For the last few years I have been trying a system where I don't pick who gets to breed with who. All the current season ram lambs (provided they meet breed standards) get a chance to compete for breeding with the ewes before heading off to the freezer in January. For a couple years I didn't even keep a mature ram around, but this past year I changed that as I increased the size of my pasture area.  
I have been struggling to find information about this style of management as most breeders hand pick each ram for each group of ewes to be bred. I have been struggling with what to even call this style of management until recently. After a long conversation with a number of people in a sheep forum I was able to put my thoughts together and describe what exactly my system is.

Following is the "Wild Flock System" or what could also be called "Modified Multi-Sire Management".

What it is:

  • Ram(s) and ewes are kept together year round .
  • Ram lambs which meet breed standards are not separated or castrated thus allowing them a chance to breed even if they aren't a part of the permanent breeding flock. 
  • Rams in this system can be a mix of any number of mature rams + the current season's quality ram lambs, or the current season's ram lambs only in the case that space can not be afforded to keeping adult rams in addition to adult ewes in the flock.
  • A way to ensure that natural selection pressures will be supplementing artificial selection pressures from the shepherd. A dominant ram may father a greater percentage of the lambs.
  • A way to minimize having too many lambs sired by the same sire and thus slowing inbreeding in closed flocks where offspring will be kept as breeding replacements.
  • A system which involves culling any individuals which do not meet breed standards or breeder's goals.

What it is NOT:

  • A way to maintain registered sheep.
  • A way to maintain highly selected, high production commercial sheep.
  • A lack of management or selection.
  • A lack of control in other management aspects of animal husbandry.
  • Lazy or neglectful management.
  • Feral or un-managed.
  • An attack against single-sire breeding systems (they have been proven effective).
  • A way to achieve maximum uniformity between individuals.


I'm really hoping to find a community of people who are interested in this and even better if they have experience with this or something like it to share our observations and experiences with this style of management. I am not trying to promote it as anything better than the single-sire system which seems to be the norm. It is simply a different system. If you'd like to join me I've set up a small forum on Facebook to talk about this system or similar systems with sheep or other livestock to which this may apply. The forum is a group called "Wild Flock System (Modified Multi-Sire Management)"