Some stats from this year's lamb crops

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Some stats from this year's lamb crops

Postby Bill Fosher » Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:16 am

Hi folks,

Unfortunately, scales don't lie.

I just weighed my lambs and found a couple of interesting figures.

There are two groups of lambs. One was born in March, sired by a 7/8ths Dorper ram. The other was born in May, sired by two different Texel rams.

The March born group was reared on creep feed. The ewes received high-quality grass-legume hay and a grain ration. Their lambs were weaned in early June, and run with a the second group that I'm about to describe.

The May lambs were born on pasture. Their mothers were overwintered on grass-legume silage with no grain. Pasture was their sole feed source from April 20 onward until mid August, when I started feeding a small amount of shelled corn so that the lambs would learn to eat it alongside their mothers. Lambs were weaned in early September, and have been on a rising level of shelled corn since. The March lambs were running with this group from June, and were kept with the May lambs when the May lambs were weaned.

The lambs are now receiving about 1/2 lb of shelled corn per head per day, plus high-quality lush pasture.

The average weight of the March born lambs is 73 lbs. with a range of 52 to 98 lbs. Take out the highest and lowest (one lamb at each extreme), and the range is 58 to 86.

The average weight of the May born lambs is 58 lbs. with a range of 38 to 82. There are four that weigh 82, and one that weighs 38. Take out those extremes and the range is 44 to 80.

I'd like to see the May born lambs heavier, but the March lambs are a real disappointment, given all the feed that went into them.

We still have about two months of pasture here, so it will be interesting to see what happens with them. I suspect that I will be able to get another 30 to 40 lbs onto the May lambs, but I think the March lambs are probably going to start putting on frame now and stop gaining.

Any thoughts? I'm thinking the March lambs are suffering from what I've come to call the Dorper stall.
Bill Fosher
Westmoreland, NH
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Postby wsp » Tue Sep 26, 2006 7:54 am

What breed are the ewes in each group?
Did you notice any difference in parasite resistance?
This year my half cheviots way outdid the purebred katahdins on vigor as well as growth. Though I didn't do a test I had less lambs have symptoms of parasites with the cheviot cross.
Are you still using flockfiler? How do you like it? I like it so far. I found if I put a letter or word on the name part for the sheep I can easily look at the list and see who is in each group . I put blue down for every bfl or cheviot being bred for mules and cx for my cheviot crosses. Then I can use blue tags on that group as well for easy visual identification, besides having a second tag in case they lose the other one.
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Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Sep 27, 2006 6:33 am

Similar ewes in both groups. I have don't know if there's any difference in susceptibility to parasites, but I don't think that parasites were the limiting factor on the growth of either group. I think it was energy.
Bill Fosher
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Postby Cory » Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:14 am

My lambs that were born later don't seem to be growing like they should. The neighbor's lambs are the same way. I think it has to be the weather as we don't have the same breed of sheep. We had some very cold weather here for a few weeks during lambing season. I have a lamb that was born in June that is bigger then the lambs born in April.
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Postby Sugar Creek » Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:18 am

We had lambs in February by a Kahtadin ram and in March by a wether type Sufflok ram - all out of Dorper X Polypay ewes. Fed the ewes a little grain through April into May. Did not creep feed but lambs ate along side the ewes when they got tall enough.
Weaned in early July and placed on feed (14% grain mixture) with grass and a little good hay. Sold in Late July, August and early September.
Kahtahdin sired lambs averaged around 95 lbs (88 to 105 lbs.) and Suffolk sired lambs caught up and passed the Katahdins, averaging around 125 lbs (115 to 130 lbs). We approached getting $100 per lamb and were well satisfied. Katahdin lambs sold well but we were a little dissappointed in the way they did according to the grain they ate.
We replaced the Kahtadin ram with a large type Southdown this fall but will still have a few early lambs by the Suffolk.
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Postby KathyF » Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:53 am

Okay, I realize that a large percentage of the time the hair lambs don't finish out as heavy/big as wool lambs. But shouldn't taste of the meat also be considered?? My husband and I find that we much prefer the flavor of the meat of a hair lamb vs a wool lamb. We also prefer the taste of a hair x wool better than straight wool. I am just bringing this up as another point and I guess I am trying to say that size isn't all that matters.

I am thinking that we will go to more of a wool x hair commercial flock for ourselves, but will always keep some hair sheep in the breeding just for the flavor of the meat.

JMHO
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Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:52 am

Hi Kathy,

This comes up a lot. Personally I have grown and eaten many kinds of lambs, and I have a preference for the British and Continental breeds of wool sheep, although I find it pretty hard to distinguish between a well grown Texel-cross lamb and a well-grown Dorper or Katahdin cross lamb based on flavor alone.

Now, if by wool sheep you mean Rambouillet or Columbia, then I think that yes, you'd be right that hair sheep meat has a better flavor.

If you're working with sheep that have been bred to produce meat, whether they have a hair coat or a wool coat, and you have supported their nutritional needs properly, I think that you'll find there's very little or no difference in flavor of the meat.
Bill Fosher
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Postby KathyF » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:01 pm

That might be a possibility. The last lamb burger that we had and that my husband really disliked was at a wool and fiber festival. Maybe fiber was their priority on their farm and that might be why we didn't care for the meat as much.

Is there a listing somewhere that lists what breeds of sheep are considered meat sheep?

Kathy
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Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:53 pm

I could try to start one:

Terminal sire breeds:

Suffolk, Hampshire, Southdown, Texel, Dorper(?)

Maternal breeds:

Dorset, Cheviot, Romney, Katahdin, Coopworth, Polypay, Tunis. Or crossbreds with some of these breeds in them.

Specialized breeds important in meat production:

Finnsheep (crossed with maternal breeds to increase prolificacy)

Romanov (same as above with slightly less deleterious effects on carcass traits, but with a tendency to throw a hair coat into the wool.)

Blue Faced Leicester (crossed with maternal breeds to increase prolificacy and body length)

Rambouillet (sometimes a quarter component in the Dorset X [Finnsheep X Rambouillet] crossbred commercial sheep. To improve wool quality, frame size, and suitability to dry climates).

East Friesian (a dairy sheep sometimes crossed into maternal sheep to improve milk production, prolificacy, and frame size)

What have I overlooked?
Bill Fosher
Westmoreland, NH
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Postby gail » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:55 pm

Hi Bill,

Like you said, the scales don't lie.

Here are some of my thoughts:

The best test would have been to use the Dorper ram and a Texel ram at the same time for the best comparison.

Are the Dorper lambs in a finished condition? If yes, the ethnic market in the NE seems to prefer the lighter lambs. While I don't think the money is there to produce a nice lighter lamb vs a nice heavier lamb (and you certainly put more money into these lambs with feed costs), there should be a desire for this weight lamb.

I have heard you talk about your disappointment with the Dorper ram and the lambs stalling out around 80# before, why do you keep using the Dorpers? I have little experience with Dorpers. I have only seen them at the few shows I have been to and have never talked with anyone seriously about them. I know they are popular in Texas as a production breed, but I don't know anyone personally that has a commercial flock or uses the rams. Do you know Dorpers that produce a better commercial lamb?

If you really think they are going to stall out now, you might want to sell them now. Lamb prices have come up a little the last couple of weeks. I am debating selling my lambs in the next couple of weeks or holding onto them until end of Nov/Dec. I plan on keeping an eye on prices and seeing what I think I'll get for them vs. the costs of feeding them. I'm not sure I'll have enough pasture for the lambs and the ewes through Nov. Are you planning on shipping to New Holland or do you have another marketing plan?

Gail
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Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Sep 27, 2006 6:51 pm

Hi Gail,

These Dorper-sired lambs are the result of the last Dorper ram to leave the farm having escaped for a last fling.

I don't anticipate any difficulty selling these lambs at lighter weights. Some are in nice condition, but they mostly need a little more cover. In about few weeks they'll be in good salable condition.

I have a couple of markets that pay a small premium over New Holland, so unless they're full up, that's where these will end up.
Bill Fosher
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Postby WA_Texels » Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:12 am

Bill, you say you've used the Dorper ram in years past. What was the growth on last year's lamb crop sired by him?

I only have experience with a Coopworth sire and Texel sire so don't have the Dorper background, but our mid February pure Texels are ranging 104-140 lb mid Sept on pasture alone (creep fed for a month before pasture came on, just a minute amount compared to your grain program), weaned late (4 months) and pasture that is now waning. Just now getting a bit of hay to augment the forage left. Backfat is .10-.34 with the ewe lambs at the higher range. They are out with their mothers (weaned a while back and reintroduced). Ram lambs and wethers are separated.

Texel sired crosses are ranging all over the board depending on the ewe breed and were born in March-April but range from 75-125 lb. Mid Sept

Pure Coopworth born in March-April are 75 (set of quads are light) to 115 lb.

Here's the interesting part....we did a late lambing with our ewe lambs from last year. They lambed in June and July, Texel sired, all singled (which I wanted for ewe lambs) and their lambs have been on grass from the get-go, no creep feed. They were 35-55 lb mid August, haven't weighed them since. Many were gaining 1 1/4 lb a day...I know, they are singles and still nursing but nothing has been put into them as far as feed costs. Plus, I didn't have to get up in the middle of the winter all night to check on lambing, etc. We just went outside each summer morning to find lambs nursing and doing fine. I'm wondering...why don't we do it like this with all of them? Well, you know the reasons, purebred folks want breeding stock early in the season, market lambs need to be ready for my locker lamb customers by October and Superior Packing only has buy days in WA until October, so we have to have lambs ready to market at market weights (120-130) a tad bit earlier.

Wormed a couple of times as needed.

Sorry, I digressed on the subject matter. Do you have figures from last year on the Texel versus Dorper sired lambs? It might be "the year". We had a drought last year and had lower ADG's but this year a bit of rain here and there did the trick. My rams are on a diet (waning poor pasture) as they got so fat having a pasture to themselves all summer.

I also have no experience with grain feeding as we are basically too cheap to buy grain except for flushing ewes for a few weeks right now. I am assuming since you have this in your program, it's something in the past that has worked well for you for finishing out those lambs. Could it be a parasite problem or a mineral depletion of some sort? Just thinking out loud, looking at the variables.
Jami B.
Texel and Coopworth Sheep
Ellensburg, WA
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Postby woolpuller » Fri Sep 29, 2006 8:04 am

Inmteresting comments and ideas.
When BLUP is used, this program can compare singles to twins etc, can remove the feed problem, the weather to give a much better comparison. It also has inputs from daughters, sons, sire, dam ,and other sibs. A person has to have faith in this system. Cattle, pigs have used for years and have made great progress. Other countries are already using it.
In some countries the Dorset can be a mother breed or terminal.
Polpay, and Rideau Arcott are two other mother breeds.
high performance, high health, high biosecurity, a truly closed Suffolk Flock
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Postby WA_Texels » Fri Sep 29, 2006 9:43 am

Woolpuller:
I'm unclear on what BLUP is but I'm assuming a Canadian performance database with EBV's? Good guess or bad?

We have just enrolled in Lambplan so I'm looking forward to some of the same information (regarding variables of 'the year') you are utilizing with BLUP.

Sometimes though, when it's an "odd year" of ADG's or ewes not twinning or something of a change with the same management, it's plain simple weather conditions which can change the parasite loads, forage, etc. and I don't think the ram can be blamed and discarded for one year out of many of good growth on the lambs, better birth rates, etc. Do you rely solely on your BLUP figures or do you take into account other factors? I know a performance database system is very useful and can get a flock ahead in a short time and keep it moving upward, but do you find common observation is as useful? I enjoy hearing the different management styles on this forum...always out to learn something new.

Thanks for any comments.
Jami B.
Texel and Coopworth Sheep
Ellensburg, WA
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Postby Bill Fosher » Sat Sep 30, 2006 5:32 am

There's a strong possibility that weather had something to do with the poor weights I'm seeing in the late lambs. We had some pretty intense rain during lambing and the weeks following lambing, which I'm sure set back early growth. There was the Mother's Day Deluge, in which it rained hard continuously for four days. We got about 10 inches of rain in those few days.

Selenium deficiency has been a real bugaboo for us as well. I've been feeding a high-selenium mineral to the ewes, but it still might not be enough. Liver analysis will tell.

The ewes have been in good shape throughout the year. A couple of have dropped to BCS 2, but most of them have stayed at BCS 3 or so.
Bill Fosher
Westmoreland, NH
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