No Lambs Yet

Still waiting for my first lambs. I must say, this fruitless waiting is even more aggravating since I actually planned to avoid it by being clever with a marking harness. But not quite clever enough.

When I drive down to the farm at night, fight the ice at the doorway, and roll back the big barn doors, the sheep look up at me calmly, blinking in the light.

My rule of thumb is that a ewe is not going to lamb any time soon if she’s eating hay or chewing cud. Still, this is hardly a foolproof formula. I always remember that with my own first delivery, I myself was so clueless that I dithered for some minutes: should we, or should we not, take my beloved dog with us to the hospital? “Are you kidding?” said DH, who shut the door on the dog and pushed me firmly into the car.

I have been studying my records from last year. I was busy working with Allen in the fall of 2009 and did not separate my ram from the ewes. Despite the ram’s constant presence, more than 50% of my lambs were born in one busy week between February 22 and March 1, 2010. This year I prevented early outliers by separating the ram until September 13. That gave me February 5 as a first possible lambing date. I am wondering if I will get another rash of lambs the same late February week this year. It will be interesting to see. I expect I will again have one or two hoggets (ewe lambs older than nine months) giving birth in late April and May.

Ewes tend to cycle earlier and more vigorously with a ram around. I think of it as the Flirtation Response. For this reason, big sheep producers keep an extra ram, who has been vasectomized. He is called a “teaser” ram. Once your teaser is running around, curling his lip and twirling his mustache, you know your ewes are safely in heat and ready for breeding. You pull the teaser out of the flock and put your potent flock sire in. (You don’t keep the teaser in the flock alongside the sire, because they would fight.) I don’t have the size of operation that requires a teaser ram. For eleven months of the year, he would be just another mouth to feed. However, it does seem like a nice job for those boys that can get it.

As day after day goes by without action, it is tempting to do fewer flock checks. I make myself drive down anyway. It’s much too upsetting if through my carelessness I should lose a lamb.

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