EarlyLambsIs how long it takes for four rams to find five fertile ewes in a group of 120 ewes all circling in chaos. This happened last September, I was doing some chores in the field and driving back and forth between pastures. At one point, I only shut one of a double-gated passage, thinking I was going to go back through there in a few minutes. The mature rams are vigilant and watch my every move when I’m going through gates, and they don’t miss an opportunity. I must not have latched the gate securely, and they pushed it open while I was distracted doing something in the field. I figure they were in there for about twenty minutes before I was able to get a dog and wrangle them all back to where they belonged. Twenty minutes resulting in nine early-bird lambs born at the end of February. Lamb

I had noted this incident in my daily diary. When the normal breeding season came in November, I watched for ewes that never marked during the first 3 weeks. There were eight. I blood tested those for pregnancy right after that first cycle. The test is normally sensitive when the ewe has been pregnant at least thirty days. Seven tested positive, so that gave me a good guess as to which ones were likely bred earlier. One of those lambed in January. In early Feb, I looked at the remaining six and decided five were bagging up, so I brought them into the barn. Sure enough, they all lambed over a three day period. I was relieved that no other ewes unexpectedly lambed in the pasture, because our sacrifice area is a hopeless mud hole. I think I’m in the clear now, everyone else should lamb at the regularly scheduled time in April; by then the weather should be good and the grass green.

I have sent DNA tests off for these lambs to determine sire parentage; but from looking at them, I can already tell there will be good representation across the four rams. The dark chocolate and red colors are strong clues of the like-colored fathers in this case. The white ones are less clear, but still have some conformational and frame size hints as to whom they likely belong. It’ll be a few weeks before the lab tells me for sure.

The January “triple sire” lambs have grown well. The orphan-rear is nothing if not corpulent, outpacing her ram and ewe sibs by 8-9 pounds at her sixty day weight. A combo of her very high genetic scores for early growth and a half gallon of milk replacer a day. I am using up the last of the milk this week and then she will be cut off from the supply, and is ready to go to a new home! She looks a little ridiculous, still nursing off the bucket, and she’s extremely demanding. As soon as she sees me, she hollers for me to give her a refill; and then she butts the bucket violently before latching on, thinking that will make it work better! Some folks wean orphans much earlier than 8 weeks, if they are going onto high-protein creep feed. But, I’m weaning onto hay/grass, I don’t like to remove the milk replacer too early, or I find they stall-out on growth. As is always the case, she turned out great on the ol’ wives’ tale grocery store cow’s milk recipe, it just never fails me!

Happy Spring!