Tupping time is a crucial part of the year, and decisions about which tups to use on which ewes develop over the course of the preceding months. The old saying is that 'the tup is half your flock', meaning that it is responsible for half the genetic make-up of next year's lambs!
This means that in choosing a tup, you need to look at the sheep that you have, and identify what traits you need to breed in to your flock. As there is a breed standard for shetlands, there are lots of clear pointers of things that you do want in your flock and thus also things that you don't! It is rare for one tup to be able to bring you all the breed traits that you need, but that is the golden grail of tup-hunting, buying, breeding and hiring: the perfect tup with an amenable personality, the correct conformation, fantastic wool ....
We breed colour to colour which means dividing the ewes into small groups with a tup allocated to each group: white tup to white ewes; black tup to black ewes, moorit tup to moorit ewes (or vice-versa as we took the ewes to visit a spendid island moorit ram on a neighbour's farm), grey tup to grey ewes (as above), and fawn tup across all the patterned ewes. And in amongst all this complication, you need to avoid any of the breeding sheep being too closely related.
The tups came out yesterday and went back to their winter grazing, where their male friends greeted them with hostility and rampant desire. These few breeding tups smell of lady-sheep and so we needed to pen ALL the males very tightly until they ALL smell equally of lady-sheep. Job done for another year. Now just to get ready for the winter feeding regime.