I still have six of 34 ewes which did not lamb. Impatient to know their status, I did blood draws on them and sent them in for laboratory testing.
I actually suspected none of these ewes were pregnant. Five of them don’t look big enough to be near-delivery pregnant as they should be by now. The six ewe looks gigantic, but is also very over-conditioned. I wondered if she’d just grown obese over the winter. But, it turns out she is pregnant, along with a two-year-old. This is good and bad.
I run rams with the ewes all winter. I start with a controlled breeding cycle where ewes and rams are paired-up in matings of my choice, in separate corrals. Their progeny will all be of known pedigree so I can register them; and I know all the due dates since the rams wear marking harnesses. But once that’s over and every ewe has been marked during that three-week fertility window, I toss all the sheep back together in a mob for the winter. This makes feeding easiest, for one. And two, if a ewe were to lose a pregnancy in the first few months, she has a chance to re-breed. Then the year is not wasted. This is the plan, anyway.
There are some drawbacks to these late-breds, however. I won’t know who the sires are. And the ewes’ feeding program gets all messed up if they breed late. The fat ewe worries me, she’s essentially been living high on the hog for her entire pregnancy, which is bad. Ewes need to stay lean for the first 3-4 months, and only be put on the big gain in the last third of pregnancy. Her backline looks like a tabletop, I could put a full setting of china on there! I bet she’s got some mighty big babies in there, and she risks a difficult birth. And I have no idea when that birth will happen such that I can keep a closer eye on her. The second late-bred ewe I actually did observe getting re-bred, and noted the date. So I expect she’ll lamb around the 4th of July. She’s also carrying a lot of condition, but not as extreme.
Late lambs also mean I’ll have to hustle and wean them early, so I can get the ewes back into the schedule for breeding in November. The lambs will be out of synch with the rest of the butchering cycle, or available as weaned breeding stock during winter when fewer people are shopping for them. But still, late lambs are better than feeding an open ewe an entire year! I’ll take what I can get!