Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pasture Lambing and Mule Sheep

As of Friday, our main lambing season has begun. Most of the lambs are doing fine, although we do have two lambs wrapped in my woolen Filson coat sleeping beneath the woodstove in our living room. I'm not sure what Martha Stewart would say about lambs in the living room. We'll be giving them bottles of goat's milk every 2 hours for several days.

We pasture lamb, which means that we allow the ewes to have their lambs in the pasture. Some producers pen their sheep and lamb in barns, but we think we have healthier lambs in the long run if we allow them to grow up naturally on grass. The downside of this system is that I worry endlessly about the lambs when we have stormy weather (as we're having tonight). Generally, the lambs are fine, but I still worry.

We're in the process of changing the genetics of our flock this year. We've adopted a 3-tier breeding system used in Great Britain to produce high quality grass-fed lambs. We're breeding our white faced commercial ewes to a Bluefaced Leicester ram. These offspring are known in England and Scotland as "mules" - fitting, don't you think? The mule ewes will be bred to a third breed to produce our primary market lambs.

Wendell Berry suggests that the most successful livestock farmers observe their livestock and select the breeds and individuals that best fit their farms. We're hopeful through that we can build a ewe flock through genetic improvement and careful observation that fits our system and our grass. We think the three-tier approach we're using will fit our needs - stay tuned!

If anyone out there has experience with pasture lambing, we'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dan! I don't have experience with any method of lambing, but wanted to say I love your blog! I just learned about it yesterday from your email.

    I AM however, very familiar with your lamb products (delicious) since I have purchased many times at the farmer's market. I am anxiously awaiting your paustured poultry products!

    Thanks for all you do to preserve our precious foothills and for providing healthy, wholesome meat fo us!