It’s breeding season on our farm. I just separated the sheep into four breeding groups on Saturday. This will time lambing to be focused in the first two weeks of April. The rams  have been anxiously awaiting this event. Above is “Skunk,” a newly purchased ram lamb, sporting his green marker harness. He paired up with #33 on Sunday. I am pleased to see #33 breed at the beginning of the season rather than the end. She tends to “granny”- or steal lambs from other ewes while she’s awaiting the arrival of her own babies. Next spring, she’ll be one of the first to lamb, so won’t be tempted to meddle in others’ affairs.

Ewes cycle about every seventeen days. So 2.5 weeks from now, all of the ewes should be bred. I’ll change the color of the marking harnesses at that time, and leave the ewes in with their respective rams for several days longer. This will help me note any ewes which re-breed. This is common with ewes which were bred on the first day. Sometimes the moment the ram is turned in with them, he’s a little too late into the several-hour fertility window and the ewe doesn’t conceive. In that case, she’ll re-breed about seventeen days later when she cycles again. I would also be suspicious of a ram which re-breeds multiple ewes in the second cycle, as he may have fertility problems. I have two new rams, so will be watching for that.

Once I’m satisfied that everything seems in order, I’ll put the sheep back together in a big mob for the winter. I’ll leave the marking harnesses on all the rams for another couple of weeks, so I can note any other ewes with are re-bred. In that case, I won’t know who the sire is, but at least I’ll know she has a different due date. I like to manage all the sheep together in one group during winter, it makes it easier to feed and monitor them.

As can be seen in the photo, we still have some grass left. I’m starting to introduce hay, just to compensate in case the grass is starting to lose nutrient value. The sheep enjoy the hay, but are eating about half-portion right now, so still making good use of the grass. The ewes are also getting one pound of grain each per day, to “flush” them, or encourage them to ovulate more.

This is the part I don’t enjoy so much about breeding time, is driving the ATV around to bring feed to four different groups. It makes chores go longer, and it’s tedious measuring feed for  each group. I have a fifth group up on the hill, taking advantage of the last of the really good grass. These guys have a date with the butcher soon. By Thanksgiving, everything will be simple again, fewer sheep here, and just one hay delivery to the field per day.