I haven’t blogged in ages, which just means my priority list has been really full. It has been a busy summer and fall. We managed to squeeze in a few long weekend camping trips, and also went on an Alaska cruise. We closed on the purchase of the property next door, which was a culmination of nearly a year of research, negotiation, and USDA loan paperwork. In between other life to-do’s, I  try to do one major “sheep chore” a weekend, be it vaccinations, blood tests, weighing, or de-worming. I’ve been working on extending AC-powered hotwire over various parts of the property, so I can achieve a higher voltage on my portable fencing. That is going well, and is proving to keep the sheep in much better than the portable solar units I had. I bought a new laptop, so have been spending time doing all that transfer stuff that seems to take ages. Then, somehow blogging just falls off the bottom of the list. But today I managed to fit it in!

I have been meeting the goal of having more lambs to sell every year, which means I don’t sell out so early in the season as I used to. This is a double-edged sword of being more profitable, but also prolonging the selling season, and its overhead. Butcher lambs are easy enough, I don’t really have to market them and they all sell without much customer interaction. Breeding sheep make more money, but also take more time, to prepare advertising content for each sheep, answer buyers’ questions, prepare the registration and sale transfer paperwork for them, sort out the sheep they want, and have them ready for loading in the barn. The pickup appointments usually take an hour, as I usually give folks a little tour of the farm and the rest of the sheep, and answer more of their questions. (And that’s not to mention the support after the sheep are sold: some buyers call and email me with questions for years afterwards. So if anyone wonders aloud to me why registered breeding stock cost so much more than butcher lambs, I remind them of this…)

I had a group of six ewes go out yesterday, plus a ram lamb. So, that’s great, I’m getting down to the last few for sale, just in time to start the cycle over. I’ll start breeding November 7th, and butcher lambs start going to slaughter then too (I’m a little late there, I booked too late to get an Oct butcher date!) If I have a few ewes still left for sale, that’s ok, I’ll breed them, and mark up their prices a little to sell them as bred ewes. There is under-served demand for breeding stock in the off-season; just a quick perusal on craigslist shows how few Katahdins are available this time of year.

I caught the above picture of this group of three rams from same sire, different dams.  It is an interesting comparison, as they are all very similar in type. Which one to choose if selecting a breeding ram? Well, the one on the right looks the biggest, so perhaps he is the most appealing in visual appraisal. But, there is more to be considered. The one to the left is a twin out of a three-year-old, the center lamb is a twin out of a two-year-old, and the one on the right is a single out of a three-year-old. The outer two actually weighed virtually the same; this is something that always vexes me, is visually it’s hard to tell which ones are heavier, and I’m often surprised when I get them on the scale. (Incidentally, my livestock scale head broke midsummer, and a replacement was on backorder. So I had the pleasure of doing all these weights on a bathroom scale. Which is do-able, but pretty hard on the back! But, you do what you’ve gotta do; there was no way I was going to skip taking that data…)

Raw Wt










Right(#92) 65 lbs










Center (#24)

49 lbs











66 lbs











Above are the NSIP scores of the three after taking 120 day weights, along with the raw weights (not adjusted for age). The single’s growth numbers get adjusted down to account for the fact that he was raised a single and didn’t have to share milk.  So even though he is as big as the twin on the left, his Weaning and Post-Weaning Weight (WWT and PWWT ) metrics are much lower, as they should be. The guy in the center would have gotten some credit for his dam only being age two, but you can see that doesn’t offset enough the fact that he’s a good 15+ lbs lighter (and he’s a little older, too, by about ten days). Overall, the right-most two rams are on par with each other for growth, with the center guy being a little stronger there; but the left- most ram is by far superior for growth.

Their scrotal circumference (SC) score is helpful, here the middle guy falls down some. SC is important for rams which may be breeding a lot of ewes, as it obviously impacts how much sperm production is happening. But SC has a hidden importance in that it is a broader indicator of early maturity; so daughters out of a low SC ram may mature slowly, and thus not breed to lamb as yearlings. The left and right rams are much stronger here.

The Number of Lambs Born and Weaned (NLB and NLW) scores are all good, but I don’t like how the right ram has a drop between born and weaned- that means a little less strength in survivability and maternal instinct, despite a good conception rate.

Maternal Weaning Weight (MWWT), also sometimes simply thought of as “milk” is also very strong in the left ram, pretty good on the right ram, but not so good on the center ram.

Both indexes (Maternal$ and the USA HAIR index) rank the left ram highest, he’s got a great combo of growth, prolificacy and milk. The other two are very close to each other in index, but the center ram wins out by a margin, and that’s mostly because of that NLW. So tho the right-most ram is big and pretty, he’s the lowest in prediction of future profitability. The left-most ram would definitely be my choice if I were choosing a breeding ram.

Happy Fall!