I and the sheep have enjoyed the mild temperatures and light rains in November and so far in December. But this week the temperatures change, dropping to below freezing and single digits for two days.
During the last part of November and December we have been letting the ewes graze the pasture. With the mild temperatures and moisture the grass, clover and some weeds have been growing providing grazing. This has helped with not going through the expensive hay we purchased for winter feed. The ewes have shelter in their pen, but there is not much shelter for ewes with lambs in the pasture. During these freezing windy days I will keep the ewes and lambs in their pen and feed extra hay.
I still have ewes that are going to lamb. Sheep farmers will tell you, if a storm is coming the ewes will lamb during the storm. I do have stalls or jugs set up in the barn just in case a ewe delivers lambs during the cold.
So far I have not had to use the barn stalls or jugs for the ewes lambing. The mild temperatures and the fact I have really good mothering ewes, has allowed the ewes with lambs to stay with the flock. The ewes and lambs staying with the flock saves on time of having to feed ewes with lambs in the barn, and on hay and shavings. The milk production of the ewes always seems to do better when they are grazing on good feed than eating hay.
Selecting good mothering ewes is a big help to the sheep farmer. Ewes who love their lambs, provide good milk for twins, takes a lot of work and worry off the sheep farmer. I have selected replacement ewes only from my the best mothering ewes I had. If a ewe does not keep track of her lamb, or her lamb does not grow as fast as the others I sell her.
I think the most important time for a newborn lamb is the first 72 hours. Those lambs need the colostrum and warmth from the ewe in order to get a good start on surviving and growing. The ewes that stay with their lambs, are always allowing them to nurse during the first 3 days of life, are the ones I want to keep.
The rate of growth of nursing lambs determines if the ewe is providing nutritious and abundant supply of milk. But having the nutritious and supply of milk does a lamb no good if the ewe does not know where her lamb or lambs are or if she is not there for them to nurse. It is important to watch the ewes and how the ewe cares for her lambs.
I learned this lesson from one of the first registered ewes I purchased. This ewe was what I call a maiden ewe, she had never lambed before I purchased her. When she lambed, she did not have problems with delivery and cleaned her lamb right away. She lambed in the barn, so she was in a jug for three days before I let her back out with the flock. After letting her out with the flock, I would hear a lamb bawling for its mother, and saw a lamb searching the ewes for it mother. This ewe would sometimes answer the lamb, but the lamb would smell each ewe before finding its mother. Then the ewe would let it nurse a very short time, before moving on to eat. This lamb did not grow as fast as the other lambs. Well, first time ewe I will give her another chance to learn to be a good mother.
Next lamb, this ewe had no problem with delivery, and cleaned the lamb, and let it nurse often while in the jug. On day four I put them back in the flock, same story. The lamb had to search to find its mother in order to eat. After a couple of days of watching her and her lamb, I put them back in the barn, fed hay until the lamb was big enough to sale. I sold the lamb and the ewe.
I have a couple of ewes that want their lambs beside them when they are in the pasture grazing. They do not let their lambs go and play with the other lambs, unless they play close to their moms. These lambs gain more weight per day than the average lambs in that lamb crop. Since I am in the business to produce market lambs that reach weight with the least amount of effort and expense, it is very beneficial to have ewes with that provide good weight gain per day on their lambs.
Selecting good mothering ewes is a big help to the sheep farmer in relationship to time spent in caring for ewes with lambs, the amount of feed and time the lambs are on the farm before selling, and helps the sheep farmer have a profit. The best conformation ewe does not help a sheep farmer, if that ewe does not take good care of her lambs.