We passed T-sum 200 around the second week in February- the time at which existing grass starts to grow again after being dormant for the winter. This is my cue to pen the sheep up off our reed canary grass field, to give it a chance to grow before lambing time. They will be sequestered for about six weeks. I  hate this period, the mud is hard to manage, and everything seems filthy. Especially since the sheep don’t seem to bother avoiding the mud, when they have the choice to stay in dryer areas. But they are already starting to shed, and in another month or so, they’ll be down to fresh and clean slick summer coats.

The ewes are getting big already, it’s a fun guessing game to project which ones look like they are carrying triplets! This year, I started graining them several weeks earlier, in hopes of bumping up my average lamb birth weight. The ewes are also increasing their consumption of hay as they get closer to their due dates. During their maintenance phase, they would barely polish off about 135 lbs of grass hay per day. Now they are up to about 165 lbs of hay, plus about 60 lbs of corn-barley per day; totaling about 225 lbs of feed intake daily. It is split over two measured feedings. I weigh every hay bale that comes off our loft, and I frequently weigh the grain buckets to keep my eye calibrated. Having accurate data of how much they eat is valuable for future planning, and for making corrections to future feeding strategies if I feel they aren’t performing optimally.

The rams are grouped with the ewes, and enjoying the maternity diet as well. But this turns out to be ok. They lose some weight leading up to and during breeding season, when their mind is on things other than eating; and can use the extra calories to catch back up.

This year a treat for me was in store: I bought “supersack” sized grain portions from a local feed mill, now that we have a place to store them. These are mesh bags, each containing 1,500 lbs. of grain. Not only is there a financial savings from buying in bulk like this, it saves the step of handling individual 50 lb. bags four times. In the past, I would help load them into my vehicle at the feed store, then would unload them onto the ATV and drive them down to the field, then load them into metal garbage cans for storage. Then handle them again to pour into buckets for distribution. Not to mention multiple trips to the feed store to buy a handful of bags at a time. Now, we just forklifted the whole winter’s worth of feed  off the truck into the barn, I scoop what I need into 5 gallon buckets and drive them down to the field for immediate serving. Yay!

Most of our lambing will happen the first two weeks of April, with a few outliers that will lamb the week before or after that intense time. The big push is on, both in their feed intake as well as my monitoring, to watch for ewes which might have trouble in the last weeks before their due date. Today was their last vaccination day, so I will avoid trying to handle them with a dog at all in their last month of pregnancy, when they are the most fragile.

Happy Spring!