Magnolia

Happy Spring. It’s the start of lambing season here. I’m disappointed in the poor grass growth, it’s been a cold season and the fields are barely ready to graze. Some years, I’ve had sheep in rotation by early March. But not this year. The sheep felt lucky, anyway, bursting out onto fresh grass on March 31st. I’m cringing at a forecast of ten days of rain, which could make for a muddy mess for lamb births. But, thus is the gamble of spring pasture lambing; and lucky I have a hardy breed of sheep.

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SleepingLambI’m finally getting around to totaling up my 2017 lamb crop numbers. Partly because I’m about to order vaccine for the 2018 crop already, and I need to know what to buy! Here’s how the season turned out, and what changes I’ll make this year to continue to try to knock out sources of loss.

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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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FirstLambs

Notwithstanding the twelve unplanned lambs born in January and February, here are the official first lambs of the officially planned lambing season! A couple of white and brown ewelambs. Lambs should really start arriving in earnest today, and this ewe was due tomorrow. So, these twin girls got a jumpstart on a sunny Thursday. I didn’t see them born, just found them clean and fed on a midday check, my favorite kind.

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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…)

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.

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