Katahdins


This has been a great growing year, more lambs than usual are hitting weight this fall and winter. Whereas usually I have more stragglers that wait til 9-12 months old to be ready to go. Now it’s looking like the last of the lambs may be going in December, January and February, and we’ll likely be out before Easter. If anyone was holding back on ordering, now is the time, before they are gone until fall 2018! I have a couple of spots left for the December butcher date, just in time for a Christmas lamb leg roast!

Lambs are $200 each live, and will be above 85 lbs live weight. This will render hanging weights in the forty-pound range, with final cuts in the high thirty pound range, depending on how many bone-in vs. boneless cuts you order. You also pay me $60 for the slaughter truck crew, I pay them in one check for each batch to simplify their lives. Then you pay Kelso’s, the custom butcher, directly for their cut & wrap services, which is typically $45+ tax. This pencils out to about $8/lb averaging over all the cuts, which is less expensive than grocery store retail, because there is no distributor in the mix taking his cut. You can find a deposit order form on our website here.

Our lambs have been raised naturally on pasture all summer, and they come into the barn to finish for their last 4-6 weeks on local grass hay, alfalfa, and a small bit of whole grain corn/barley for extra energy in the cold. These are very lean, healthy lambs with mild flavor. I’ve been told by some that lamb raised in this region is some of the best they’ve tasted in the world!

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EweLineFall is definitely here, with cool nights, and finally, some rain, after a long drought. In August, I weaned all the lambs, and put the ewes in drylot on hay for the short term. This saves the green grass for the lambs, giving the fields a rest until fall rains refresh them. It also gives me a good opportunity to walk the line and look at the condition of all the ewes, survey their udders, and spot any problems that need addressing before breeding season in November.

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Lambs are arriving in a steady fashion, we’re up to 40 today. It’s mostly uneventful, but there are always some interesting developments. One situation surprised me.

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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. (more…)

EweWithTripletsThe standard rules of thumb for sheep husbandry are these: a) keep rams in a separate location except for breeding season b) wean lambs at 60 days (or even earlier) c) ensure that ram lambs are removed from ewe groups by 90 days of age and d) use somewhat barbaric methods to get ewes to “dry off” post-weaning, such as withholding water and feeding them straw. I break all of these rules.

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I’m finally getting around to analyzing my lamb yield from last spring, driven by my need to plan vaccine purchases for 2017 lambing, which is driven by my need to analyze what went wrong from last season!

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2009Lamb

I was pleased to get a post card from WSU’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (WADDL) a while back, advertising that they now offer a pregnancy test. I had been paying $6.50 at BioPryn, so I was liking the $4.50 price at WADDL.

I sent in a batch of blood samples that were collected 5/1. The report came back saying all the ewes were open. I noticed once was on the hairy edge: her S-N ratio was 0.297, and anything greater than 0.300 is considered pregnant. I had a hard time deciding whether I thought this ewe looked pregnant, or just fatty. Even her  udder was ambiguous, it looked slightly full, and, in the last few days, growing larger; but certainly a long ways from imminent-to-deliver. Well, we were all wrong, she had a lamb this morning (and now her udder looks quite full). WADDL claims a sensitivity of 99.3%, so once again, I seem to have fallen into their small slice of error range, which is… not helpful. I had almost stopped monitoring or looking at this ewe, and had started putting away all my lambing bag supplies, relying too much on the test results to tell me I was done with lambing for the year.

I have not had the BioPryn test be wrong for me in either direction, tho they claim a similar sensitivity. I may go back to them, despite the $2/sample extra charge. They are also much faster at processing and returning results, which is preferable for me, since I’m using the information to plan next steps. Anyway, I was glad for the test to be wrong, as it’s always distressing to have a mature ewe be dry, and I was contemplating what to do with her. Now I know, she lost her pregnancy less than a month in, and re-bred in late December. Which is actually kind of a testament to her prolificacy. It was a nice surprise.

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