Sunday, February 26, 2012

75% done with lambing. How we care for the sheep

 We're nearing the end of our lambing season; it's pretty amazing when the size of your herd increases dramatically in a week.  The lambs are all legs and wobbling for the first day.  After a week they start to do the lamb bounce -- jump up in the air as high as you can, straight up!
 This little guy and his sibling (the black and white to the right) are a couple of hours old.  The greenhouse provides very nice, light, warm area.  In fact, it's 42 degrees outside, with a stiff breeze, and inside the greenhouse it's 70 degrees.  So warm I took off my coat. 
They start being interested in the hay we feed the sheep very early.  This guy cannot be more than 3 days old and he's munching away. 
The ewes tell them apart by voice and by smell.  

Here's what I'm doing as far as husbandry: 

Timing the births
We pick the time that the sheep lamb by penning the rams away from the ewes until the appropriate time.  We do that to concentrate the chore of lambing into as small a time as possible, and to time the birth so that when the lambs are big enough to go out there's good grass for them to go out on. 

We do feed the ewes
During the last 4 weeks of pregnancy, we supplement the hay and minerals we feed to the ewes with about a pound of feed per day.  We do that because these sheep produce twins or triplets, and that takes a lot of calories -- we've tried it strictly grass fed and lost ewes

Constant observation during lambing
During lambing we check on the sheep 3 times a day, looking for any problems or complications.  this year we did lose a ewe; autopsy showed that she had pneumonia, and that the stress of pregnancy plus that put her down; even watching the sheep every day we didn't notice that this one was sick, which is a pity.  She was a nice ewe. 

Putting the ewe in a jug
Once the ewe lambs we move her into a small pen, about 4' across, called a sheep jug, with her lambs.  she stays there for a day or two.  We do that so that we can watch the ewe and lambs, and make sure that things are good.  Sometimes ewes will reject a lamb, sometimes a lamb will have issues; putting the mother into a jug means we can catch this and take appropriate action to make things right. 

Group housing - get them used to the flock
After that day or two, we put the lambs into group housing with the other sheep that have lambed.  We try to sort the lambs by size -- bigger lambs will steal milk from other mothers, and we want to have as little of that as possible. 

Culling and records
Once lambing is done, we'll take note of the production of each ewe, and make the decision on which to keep and which to send to auction. 

And when the grass is well started, the flock goes out onto the fields.

1 comment:

becky3086 said...

They are beautiful. We don't have room for lambs but I would love to have a couple goats.