Shepherding Part II
September 14, 2010
Good morning, folks. Last week, I mentioned that it was time to separate out the ram lambs from the ewes in my flock. The reason—the cool nights and shorter days bring on the cycling of the ewes. Ewes naturally begin cycling in the fall—shepherds know this and manage their flocks accordingly. So we are working with Mother Nature now, not against, which is why it feels in sync. The ewes cycle for 16 days. I choose to lamb in March, so the ram joins the ewes in Oct. I leave the ram with the ewes for 2 cycles, 32 days. Then, he will return to his farm to join his ewes there. My friend breeds later, so she has lambs in April instead of March. She does not have a barn for lambing, so she lambs in the field. She wants the warmer spring weather for lambing time.
I have 3 ram lambs from lambing last Feb. that are sold. These 3 boys and the ewe lambs, plus the yearlings that I have sold will be sheared this evening. Buyers like the clean sheep, and I like the lamb fleeces to process and spin up. My lamb fleeces this time of year are long and soft—great for clothing worn next to the skin. These sheep are being sold for breeding stock because they are blue faced Leicester crosses. This breed is known for improving the amount and quality of meat in market lambs, plus their fleeces are popular with the hand spinners. In about 2 weeks, these sheep will have enough fleece growth to protect them from cold rain and wind. Until then, they have access to my barn. Then, it’s back to the pastures and shelter in the trees until really bad weather sets in. The adults I keep in my flock will be sheared the first of March.
For some interesting reading, plus lovely photos of different sheep breeds, take a look at Beautiful Sheep, Portraits of Champion Breeds by Kathryn Dun and Living with Sheep, Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Flock by Chuck Wooster.
Tess, my border collie, and I are headed to Nebraska this weekend to work with a friend on large flocks of sheep in her big fields. This is really good training for Tess—gives her lots of experience reading different livestock, different from her sheep.
We wish you all a lovely week!!