It is crazy how time flies… it has already been a few weeks since our first group of Rideau ewes finished lambing. We have been wanting to share with all of you how the flock performed. Our ewes hit a record for us this time around with a 264% lambing average overall. The following chart is a breakdown of how our ewes lambed.
It puts into perspective how prolific these ewes are when you see that 97% of our lamb crop is made up of lambs that are twins or better, 69% of the lambs are triplets or better, and only 3% are singles. If you take just the ewes who lambed quads and quintuplets we had 39 ewes who gave birth to 160 lambs which equals 410%.
Without a doubt, numbers like these make for a busy lambing season. We were so glad to have some great help this year and somehow managed to keep up with everything.
The great news about numbers like these is that we have a huge number of very prolific offspring to sell. If you are interested in ewe lambs or ram lambs from this early lambing group, make sure to contact us soon while there are still some available to pre-book.
We were very happy with our birth weights this year, which is important, especially when we are getting so many large litters. Birth weight has everything to do with nutrition, and we are hoping to share some very valuable information with you about how we have been feeding our ewes in the last two years to achieve great results out of such high performance ewes. Sign up to be notified when our blog posts come out so you don’t miss it!
Here’s how it happened. I was working in the barn with Alyssa’s dad (Opa to our kids). We were installing some new water bowls in our lambing jugs. Lambing was already busy, and as new lambs were born we would put away the ewe with her new lambs in a jug. Towards the end of the day Opa was working near one of the lambing pens where one ewe had a nice little set of triplets. He brought her out of the pen, down the alley and into her 4×4 jug. We checked her milk, marked her down on the chart and, after finishing up our work, headed in for the night.
Later that night, I came back to check ewes. From some distance away I could see the ewe with triplets. It looked like there were more than three lambs in her pen. It’s not unusual for a ewe to drop another lamb after a delay of a couple hours if she gets interrupted in the process. So, I went to check her. The closer I got the more lambs I saw. Four, five, six! Nope SEVEN! I couldn’t believe it! Seven healthy active lambs. A new record for us! We have seen six in the past, but they are rarely strong and healthy. These lambs were certainly below our normal birth weight but, considering that she had about 3 times as many lambs as our average ewe, the lambs looked amazing. She had them all up and drinking and she wasn’t rejecting any of them.
The interesting thing is that if she had lambed out in the group pen I would have assumed that she was stealing some lambs from another ewe, but since she had the last 4 of them in an individual pen I knew they had to be hers.
I put her out into a makeshift pen in the alley so that she would have enough room for all her lambs. In keeping with our protocol for large sets of multiples I fed colostrum to all the lambs to ease the competition pressure among the lambs and to make sure that all of them received adequate antibodies. In this case I had to put a blue spot on the lambs as I fed them to make sure that I didn’t miss one.
The next morning she was still beautifully mothering all her lambs and everybody came out to have a look. What an exciting event. It made me think that if every ewe could manage this many lambs so well it would be great to have seven all the time, but it’s probably better if this is just an occasional surprise.
Spring lambing is beginning to come to a close here, and that means a bit more time to make some posts here on the blog. Throughout lambing we took some pictures and over the next little while I’ll try to catch you up on some of the things we do here during lambing.
As on most Canadian sheep farms, once a ewe has had her lambs we put them together in a ‘jug’ (small aprox. 4’x4′ pen) to bond with each other. After a few days the lambs get their tag and are ready to head out into the ‘hardening pen’ which is a group pen with ewes and similarly aged lambs. This pen usually has 6-12 ewes in it, and it gives the lambs a chance to learn to find their mother in a group setting. This stage can be a little challenging for some of the triplets, especially if the ewe is a little flighty. Usually if a ewe has multiples and we don’t think they are getting enough milk we pull one or more off and put them on our milk feeder, but occasionally we have a set of multiples that seem pretty good but we aren’t 100% sure of. Other times when lambing gets really busy we run out of jug space and have to move some sets into the hardening pen a little younger than we like.
In the hardening pen there are lots of lambs running around and napping all over the place. It can be hard to spot a problem lamb when you are busy doing chores around the barn. Often by the time you notice one that’s hungry it’s gone too long. So we finally came up with a relatively simple solution. Since there are usually only a few lambs in a hardening pen that we want to keep an eye on we needed a way to spot them easily from a distance. Tag numbers are no good because they can’t be read from more than a few feet away.
What we decided to do, is to give a matching paint mark to each set of lambs as well as their ewe when we want to keep an eye on them. The paint is designed for marking livestock and we buy ours at the local UFA. The other nice thing about this is that it gives a matching visual to know which lambs belong to which ewe. We can now see at a glance if the ewe is letting her own lambs drink, or possibly ignoring them. And of course we now know that any lamb who has a paint mark in the hardening pen is one we need to keep an eye on.
For this group I decided to paint their right hind legs where the paint wouldn’t stay in their wool and would wear of quicker since it doesn’t need to be a long term identifier. The nice thing about doing legs is that you have four to choose from, so if we have more than one set of lambs in a hardening pen that we want to mark, I can just do a different leg. Alternatively we could use a different color of paint for different groups of lambs which would give a nice clear visual.
I know I have seen pictures from some flocks where every lamb is painted with a number which matches it’s ewe. For our needs though it seems to be working just fine to mark only the ones we want to keep an eye on. It’s quick and easy to do, and saves lambs in the long run.