Monday, April 4, 2011

A Lambing Journal - Day 42

The rams were in with the ewes for 40 days.  On day 42 of our lambing season, the last lamb arrived.  Ewe 32 had a single ram lamb sometime last night.  Judging by the swelling of his head and is general size, I'm guessing it was a somewhat difficult delivery.  Regardless, both the ewe and lamb are doing well today!
Ewe 32 with the last lamb of the spring!

We had a busy and productive day today.  Paul and I brought all of the ewes and lambs into the corrals (with the help of Mo and Taff, of course - actually, they did most of the work!).  We sorted off all of the open ewes (those that weren't bred and those that lost lambs) - they'll go to the Whitney Oaks project later in the week.  We also sorted off 10 ewes with lambs - they'll graze small projects around Auburn for the next month.  The rest of the ewes and lambs (roughly 100) will go to a project in Lincoln in about a week.  Everyone (lambs included) went through the footbath today - with all of the wet weather we've had, we've started to see some scald (no foot rot - yet).  When we were nearly done, Paul went to Rocklin to move the Whitney Oaks flock.

Grazing behavior is both instinctive and learned.  We're starting to see the lambs experiment with grazing - I observed one lamb working on a multiflora rose today.  These are invasive roses that can take over irrigated pastures - nice to have a critter eat it!  This lamb probably has learned to eat brush from its mother.

Now that lambing is done, we'll turn our attention to other things - shearing, contract grazing, irrigating pastures, etc.  We'll also reflect on what worked well this year in terms of our breeding program, and what we'll change for next year. Here are some preliminary thoughts:

  1. The teaser ram seemed to synchronize the ewes quite well - we had a 90+ percent conception rate in a 40 day breeding season.
  2. We need to work on our flushing program - we made some progress in our lambing percentage this year, but I think we can get closer to our 150% lamb crop goal by changing our nutrition management prior to breeding.
  3. I'm not satisfied with our terminal sire program yet.  The lambs look good, although they are perhaps too large in their frame size for our grass-fed program.  We did have to pull a number of the lambs sired by the terminal rams, especially in the maiden ewes.  Next year, we'll either breed all of the maiden ewes to the Blueface Leicester rams, or we'll find another option for our terminal rams.
  4. I think our timing in terms of weather is okay - we did deal with some unusually cold and windy weather this year, but we're now achieving peak lactation in the ewes at the peak of grass growth.  There are trade-offs, certainly, but the lambs that have survived are gaining rapidly.  I'll likely make some plans for shelter next year.
  5. We'll continue to use BoSe for the lambs.  I'm going to re-evaluate our mineral program for the ewes to make sure we give them enough selenium, vitamin E and zinc.
For now, though, we're going to enjoy the fact that all of the lambs that could be born have been born!  I'll toast the ewes with a nice single malt scotch tonight after dinner!  Cheers!

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