MarkingHarnesses

It’s breeding time again. I can’t believe how time flies. I am still working in Seattle, and tinkering with my schedule to make it more workable. Blogging has been suffering. I miss it, and will try to do better!

I am over-wintering 29 ewes, and using three rams for breeding this fall. They are all wearing marking harnesses, which I love.

I like knowing more precisely when the ewes will be due. And I like knowing when they are all finished breeding. The girls bred on the first day of togetherness are always suspect- sheep are only fertile for about a two hour window. So girls marked on the first day could have been visited too late. But when I change the marking harness color after 17 days, I can tell if they’ve been re-bred later when they came back into heat.

Above are some orange-marked ladies. Three ewes have yet to be bred, I am tapping my foot waiting. I expect them all to finish up by the end of the weekend. It’s inconvenient keeping three separate groups. In fact, I won’t keep them separate through a full 34 days (two heat cycle’s worth) because it’s too much of a pain. Instead, I’ll leave them together for 18 days, to try to catch the ones that cycle back if they weren’t caught on the first day. I’ll leave marking harnesses on the rams with their new colors, but will put them all back together. If any ladies get multiple colored marks after that, so be it. Those babies will be mystery babies, likely destined for butcher. I can always DNA test if they were really special and I wanted to keep them for breeding.

ewesFlushing

I flushed again this year. Flushing is putting them on an increasing plane of nutrition to encourage their bodies to ovulate more eggs, in hopes of increasing twinning rates. I want to collect enough data on their conception rate with flushing so that next year I can eliminate flushing, and be able to tell statistically if it makes  a difference in twinning rates for my sheep.

Feeding some grain has the added side benefit of training the sheep to come to me, and then they all stand there eating while I inspect them for crayon marks.

I had  a tough time going ahead with my flushing plans this year though. Most of my ewes are fat. So I only ramped them up to 1/2 lb of dry COB per day (in the past, I’d done a pound). There is definitely good research that shows that flushing does increase twinning rates. But some studies have shown it only works on ewes who are in less than ideal condition. If they are already fat, it tends to have no affect. And too much fat can interfere with conception as well. With Katahdins already having solid twinning genetics, I’m really curious to see if flushing makes any difference at all. By 2012, I’ll know! Open-mouthed smile

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