Weaning Day

ImageWeaned all but the last set of twins (who are still too young) this morning.  Then turned the ewes out to graze.  What a ruckus.  Will be preparing four rams for transport to the vet tomorrow for blood testing so they can go to their new homes in the next few weeks. 

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Weaned all but …

Weaned all but the last set of twins (who are still too young) this morning.  Then turned the ewes out to graze.  What a ruckus.  Will be preparing four rams for transport to the vet tomorrow for blood testing so they can go to their new homes in the next few weeks. 

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Importance of keeping accurate records

I am striving to start the New Year right by blogging. 

If you strive to make a profit in the sheep business it is very important to have the tools to make prudent business decisions in regard to your flock.  The most important tool is flock records.  What kind of records these are will depend upon your goals (i.e., meat production, wool production, breeding stock, dairy products).  But the basics are the same for everyone.

First, you must have a reliable way of identifying and recording pertinent information on each and every individual in your flock.  In order to grow your profit line you will need to record some of the following facts:

  • ID System – you must be able to identify each animal individually.  Red lambs are so similar it is important to ID them immediately after birth.  On a personal note, I tag my lambs and tattoo a flock number in their rear leg flap as well because the tags just are not reliable.
  • Health records – be observant, record any unusual signs/behaviors, it may be nothing or you may discover that it is an early warning sign for trouble.
  • Your conception rate – if it is less than 95% you probably need to start culling and only accurate production records will tell you where to make those cuts.
  • Your overall lambing percentage – California Reds should be expected to twin, so your lambing percentage (lambs produced/ewes) should be somewhere between 150% and 200%.  Of course, if you have a lot of first time mothers this figure will be lower.
  • Lamb mortality rate – None of us wants to keep these records, but they are very important.  If your lamb death rate is more than 10% of the total number of lambs birthed, then you need to start looking for a cause.  California Red lambs are normally hearty and vigorous; too many weak lambs are signs of an abnormal situation.
  • Ewe records – not only lambing and health records.  Conception percentages, lamb weights, lamb weight gain, undesirable traits (horns, conformation flaws, spots, weak or sickly lambs) Also, think about your end product…see some suggestions below.
  •  Ram records – conception percentages, lamb gender percentages, lambs weights and weight gain, undesirable traits (horns, conformation flaws, spots, weak or sickly lambs)
  • Longevity of your breeding stock – how many production years on average for each ewe or ram.
  • Feed costs – how much is it costing you to feed a ewe for a year

If your emphasis is meat production, add these records:

  • Birth weight
  • Weaning weight
  • Yearling weight
  • Length of loin
  • Efficient conversion of feed
  • Fat depth

If your goal is superior wool production

  • Microns
  • Staple length
  • Pounds per shearing
  • Colors/hues

If your goal is milk production

  • Daily average milk production
  • Milk solids

If you are producing breeding stock

  • undesirable traits (horns, conformation flaws, spots, weak or sickly lambs)
  • Lambing ease
  • Lambing to weaning mortality rate

If you keep detailed records they will tell you exactly how much you need to charge for meat, wool, animal, milk to make a profit.  If you have a small herd these records may be kept by hand or in a simple spreadsheet on your computer.  As your herd gets larger you may want to look into one of the many sheep flock record keeping software programs.  Some of them even offer PDA and Smartphone applications, which I don’t have, but would imagine is very handy in the barn.

A few words to the wise before investing in one of these sheep flock record keeping programs:

  • Most reputable software companies have a demo version that allows you to test the software.
  • Make sure that the program will work with the operating system on your computer.
  • Contact the firm; if they won’t talk to you before you buy, chances are you will receive no customer service after you buy.
  • Ask other sheep breeders if they have software, if they like it and why.

As the steward of a rare breed keep detailed herd records, (however you do it) analyze them and, as hard as it is, cull, cull, cull.  Your buyers will appreciate the detailed records on the stock they purchase from you and will learn from you what kind of records to keep.  Your meat, wool, dairy products customers will appreciate the superior and ever improving products you sell them.

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Spring lambs should arrive in mid-April, 2011

The boys and girls have been together since mid-November.  The Grateful Red and Charioteer (the veteran rams) are standing to about a dozen girls.  We have added a junior ram, Holy FreeHoLee this year and we are test breeding two more yearling rams, Cooler and Apple Cart.  They each have 5-6 girls.

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Hello world!

This is our first blog in quite a while.  Fleecewool Mac (2009 ram) and Arson-Ness (2009 Ewe) moved to Idaho this past weekend.  Not much going on at the ranch other than grazing.  There are a few girls due in the next couple of months; we are looking at putting the girl and guys together in November for April/May lambs.  Things have turned colder the last few days, so we’ll be winterizing the watering systems soon.

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Lambing Update-It’s been a busy week here.

It has been very busy here the past few days so I haven’t had time to blog.

The lambing tally is:
03/26/09
Peekabaa Street x Eliot Ness, single, ewe, 10lb5oz, "Out-of-Control-Ness";
Tailgater x Eliot Ness, twin, rams, both 7lbs4oz, "Grill" and "Cooler";

3/28/09-

Tank Ewe x Ivanhoe, single, ram, 13lb 5oz, "Tanks 4 Comin"

Chinook x Excalibur, twins, ewe/ram, 9lb 6ox/8lb 6oz, "Blew By Ewe" & "Blow Out"

Sandra Woollock x Charioteer, twins, ewe/ram, 8lb 2oz/8lb 8oz, "Sigourney Weaver" & "Keanu Weaves"

Jess’ Prime Time x Eliot Ness, single, ram, 8lb 5oz, "Internal Affairs"

03/29/09-

Jess’ A Breeze x Ivanhoe, single, ram, 12lb 12oz, "Free-Ho-Lee"

Fair Maiden x Charioteer, single, ram, 12lb 2oz, "Secret Weapon"

03/31/09-

First Noel x Ivanhoe, triplets, ram/ewe/ewe, 6lbs 11oz/7lb 14oz/6lb 10oz "Ho-Ho-Ho" & "Monica Eweinsky" & "Heidi Fleece"

Elaine x Charioteer, twins, rams, 12lb 7oz/10lb 4oz, "The Big One" & "Chain Reaction".

That’s it for now. It’s snowing like crazy right now, so I hope that no one lambs for a little while.

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New Lamb

Another ewe lamb arrived today about 1:30pm. I had to go to town so naturally all the action happened while I was gone. The lambs was still damp when I arrived home. Peekabaa Street is the mom and Eliot Ness is the Dad. Another ewe (weew-hoo, that 3 for 3). I didn’t have a name ready, so I did a search Picabo Street Ness and up popped an interview of Picabo Street talking about harnessing her "out-of-control-ness" So she is officially "Out-of-Control-Ness" I guess we’ll nickname her Troll. BTW, she weighed in at 10lbs 5 oz.
 
Jess’ A Minute & Jess’ A Second are doing great:
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