Baz the ram is, or at least was, committed to procreation.
Three years ago he was rescued by Steve Burt and Angela Hocking and now lives with them on a block of land in Helidon, two hours’ drive west of Brisbane.
“The people who had him didn’t need him anymore because he’d bred with everything he could on their farm,” Mr Burt said.
Since then, among a small flock of ewes on just 0.80 hectares, Baz has fathered 13 lambs in three years.
“He’s been a busy boy,” Mr Burt said.
But all that mating has become a health issue for Baz, who has arthritis in three of his four limbs.
“Every time he’d mate he’d obviously put stress on his joints,” Baz’s vet, Becky Bayly, said.
“Angela obviously loves him very much and wanted him to hang out with the girls and not keep trying to mate them.”
Ms Hocking tried temporarily separating Baz from the ewes to give his shoulders a rest, but that made things worse.
“He just started losing weight, he was kind of getting a bit depressed,” Mr Burt said.
“He was not the same Baz,” Ms Hocking added.
Unperturbed by his physical condition, Baz continued to try to mate with the ewes.
“The vets have told us [when] the urge is there, it doesn’t matter, there’s no pain barrier,” Mr Burt said.
“He could probably have two broken legs and he’d still be trying.”
“I mean he was still trying through the fence,” Ms Hocking recalled.
There were never plans for a sheep breeding program – Baz and his fellow flock of rescued sheep were only ever meant to keep the grass down.
Something had to be done.
Snip in Baz’s best interests
Initially the family was reluctant to castrate Baz.
“The castration thing was kind of like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do that, seems kind of brutal,” Ms Hocking said.
But in order for Baz to continue living among the flock, this soon became their only option.
“We had to look at what was best for his long-term life,” Mr Burt said.
The vet was finally called and Baz’s testicles were removed during a paddock operation.
“He was very gentle, very quiet and very, very easy to deal with in the field,” Dr Bayly said.
The operation is not common but, being a much-loved pet, Dr Bayly was happy to help.
“The urge [to mate] generally goes away fairly quickly,” she said.
Netflix and air-con
The Lockyer Valley in February can be a hot and muggy place, and following Baz’s operation, with his open wound, the risk of infection or flystrike was a big concern for Ms Hocking.
“We spoke about it and I said I’d rather him be outside if we can manage it,” Mr Burt said.
“It was about three or four hours later that Ange said, ‘No, I’m going to bring him inside’.”
Baz was moved to a small pen in the lounge room, metres from the fridge and right in front of the TV.
“He’s living on lucerne and all the kitchen scraps and he’s watching television,” Mr Burt said.
“Netflix, aircon, room service, the whole lot really, why would you want to move out?” Ms Hocking added.
With the swelling in his scrotum reducing and the scar healing over, this week Baz moved back outside with his sheep family.
“They’ll just have their own little herd that’s not going to grow, they can just chill out together,” Mr Burt said.
This time, the relationship with Baz and the ewes is purely platonic.
“No more Baz babies,” Ms Hocking said.