Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ask a herder #4

Q: What is the percentage of twins that are born?
A: We usually expect about 115%, this year is looking better because of the great weather we've been having...I wouldn't be surprised if we dock at 130%.

Catching a nap in the warm sunshine

Q: What happens if a ewe has trouble lambing?
A: If we find her, we will help by pulling the lamb. Any that don't breed, don't take a lamb or have trouble lambing get a permanent marker. They get two chances to raise a lamb before they are culled. Any ewes that have had trouble before or have big bags get cut from the main herd before lambing and are kept at the ranch where we can keep a closer eye on them. Its easier to help them there than it is on the open range.

Q: How does this range lambing work?
A: After shearing all the sheep are trailed to the lambing grounds. Once they start lambing, each day the 'fixer' will cut out the ewe and her lamb(s) and they are put into a 'bunch'. The 'bunches' are then left behind while the ewes that haven't lambed yet are moved on to another spot. A 'bunch herder' will stay behind to watch all the bunches. Each day he goes out to make sure all the lambs are up and are eating. He will take them to water and back again. Ideally, there are between 30 and 50 ewes in a bunch. At this size the 'bunch herder' can get all the ewes matched up with their lambs to make sure everyone survived the night.

Main herd, waiting to lamb

Q: Why are the lambs trying to follow the pickup?
A: Lambs do not have very good eyesight when they are born however; their hearing is excellent. They will follow anything that makes a sound.The first 72 hours are critical for lamb survival. After 72 hours they are much stronger, can see better and have bonded to the ewe. Having the quiet of the lambing grounds is conducive to good bonding between the ewes and lambs.

Q: How do you keep track of all these twins?
A: Twins are marked with a paint stick. Each set of twins gets their own mark so they can easily be matched to the ewe. Twins have to be watched a little more closely because the ewe doesn't always keep both of them. Its easy for one of them to get lost in the shuffle.

bum twin, will be grafted onto another ewe
Q: What are the biggest predators during lambing?
A: Avian predators, coyotes and fox. Avain predators will peck out the eyes of the lambs while coyotes and fox often will bite them and tear them up, but not always killing them. We work closely with APHIS on predator control, but its especially important during lambing.

Q: How much do lambs weigh when they are born?
A: Usually 6 or 7 lbs, but the biggest can weigh up to 13 lbs.

Lambing camp

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting, my favorite series yet! Very different from how we lamb in New Mexico! I'll have to share with my dad, he'll enjoy this!