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…)

TripletsAlmost every year I have a ewe or two that delivers an unplanned breeding. Either due to a ram breakout too early in the fall, or perhaps she lost a pregnancy early-on, and re-bred once all the rams were all together with the we group. Often I don’t care who the sire is, I just mark it down as “UNK” (unknown). Then, the lamb either goes to the slaughter channel, or I sell at a discount the mystery ewelambs as 50% recorded ewes.

This time, with those January triplets, I was interested in the parentage. The mother is a good ewe and I’d like to register them. So, I DNA tested them. I already had DNA banked on all my adult rams, and the cost is $18 per lamb to match them up with the appropriate sire. Er, sires.



What is this trio of eaters eating? Something delectable and delicious?


A hearty bowl of grain? Something sweetened with molasses? A savory bowl of fresh-picked dandelions or morning glory? Concentrated alfalfa pellets?



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.


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!


Last week I attended a talk on the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This continues to be a topic that “everyone is freaking out about” when I don’t think most need be. On hand to present were Amber Itle, a WSDA Field Veterinarian and Cat Marrier, a WSDA Feed Specialist. I was already pretty familiar with the law change, having read up on it when it was proposed in the Federal Register, and following it as it became law. But I did pick up a few tidbits of interesting info I didn’t know!


The most common model used in the U.S. for managing lambing time is to “jug” each ewe into a 4×4’ pen in a barn right after she gives birth. Most people leave ewes jugged for several days. This definitely helps the ewe be sure to “learn” all of her lambs, and not get confused by any intruders into the birthing scent cone. It also gives the lambs ample chance to nurse on a ewe that’s not a moving target, to learn the smell and sound of their dam, and to gain practice at finding and using the ewe’s teats. If there is a problem during jugging, intervention is easy, since they are all easily caught in such a small space. The upside of this practice is reduced mis-mothering incidents (either caused by the dam’s or the lamb’s behavior), which can be a source of lamb losses.


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