Before coming to Farm Sanctuary, Patch was stuck in the past. For years, this statuesque sheep worked as a breeding ram on a historical farm that was restored to recreate how life used to be. Visitors paid to see the cute lambs he sired, which helped support the farm and the animals’ care. Once Patch aged out of production, though, his future became uncertain; the farm didn’t think they could accommodate his growing needs without the money he brought in. They hoped to find a new home for him; otherwise, they felt they had no choice but to sell him at auction for slaughter.
Farm Sanctuary was excited to offer this big-horned beauty a grand “retirement” at our New York Shelter—one where he could live out the rest of his life on his own terms. Still, the farm warned that he might not have much time left: they thought he was around 15 years old (a sheep’s natural lifespan is typically 12-14 years), and said that he suffered from pain and mobility issues.
When we met Patch, however, we were surprised by just how robust this elderly gent is. Turns out, he is closer to 12 years old than 15, and not at all the feeble, geriatric sheep we had imagined. This feisty guy greeted our transport team with a hearty and resounding stomp—a sheep’s way of saying “back off,” and a good indication that Patch needed some time to learn that we meant well.
A few days later, we brought Patch to our vets at Cornell for routine castration. We don’t support breeding at Farm Sanctuary, and there are female goats in his intended group (fun fact: sheep and goats can actually crossbreed). Neutering can also extend and improve an animal’s quality of life, and having less testosterone in his system might help Patch feel calmer.
After his procedure, Patch came home to recover in a pen in our Wisconsin Barn: his new home. We still had to keep him apart from the group, since animals stay fertile up to six weeks post-op—but this way, he could meet his new herdmates through the fence and get a sense of who’s who in his new barn.
Slowly but surely, Patch began to feel more at ease. He saw that we only approached for necessary rounds and monitors, or if he showed interest in approaching us first. Not all of our residents grow to like people, and we always respect those boundaries. That being said, it is always exciting when an animal decides to give us a chance. Now, Patch will take a break from grazing to come and say hello, and enjoys it when we scratch his wool or behind his magnificent horns.
Soon, Patch will join Nate, Bob, and Yeti sheep; Isaac steer; Stevie and Jessica alpacas; and the goats of our misfit Wisconsin Barn crew. For a sheep once stuck in the past, this lovable guy now has a bright future to look forward to at Farm Sanctuary.