Lambing update and question

A place to exchange ideas, stories, and to solve problems related to breeding the flock and delivering lambs.

Re: Lambing update and question

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:10 pm

Are you guys saying that selecting for wool ruined the merino sheep?
It is Spring for you, isn't it?
Springfarm, are you working with that much land?
So they can't keep lambs together because the ewe has to forage a very large area and the lambs don't keep up? One nap and they are lost?

So it wouldn't help in these great paddocks if you created a "fold" at an intersection of a few paddocks, even just a pavillion type structure where you keep your water and minerals and lamb in one of the connecting paddocks... so that the sheep have a regrouping station and lambs can follow anybody in and then find their mothers? Somewhere they can sleep in the shade with a few jugs in it maybe for injured ones or mismothering? Sheep actually like to come in and go out and vice versa and I think they could be trained to do it quite easily even if they haven't done it before. Even if they don't sleep there or anything, if they just tripped there, it would help wouldn't it? If there is no pattern at all that can be learned by lambs then there is no chance, right?

The 85% isn't the lambing rate, it is the weaning rate? In which case micromanaging half that number of sheep (over time and selection) would net you more money, cost less in feed etc... And by micromanaging, I mean smaller paddocks around lambing time and a fold (and that can be some posts and a flat roof) and then on to bigger paddocks.

Springfarm has a good opportunity right now to develop her farm in any way she chooses with the sheep she chooses. I don't think she can ignore the mismothering though and just do what the big boys do and not care if a sheep shows up with only one lamb and assume she only had one. At least with these few, she has a chance to knock out the mismothering until all her offspring are good mothers when she has 100, at which time, she will have 230 of everyone else's sheep but be feeding less than half that number. I find this shocking news though about the merinos and sheep in AU. I understand losses in that situation. I don't understand ewes not caring about the losses.

If the tripleting ewe has had lambs before I would cull her and keep her ewe lambs. I assume you used a willtipoll ram on the ewe?
The weak twin that was twisted but not literally so, right? He probably didn't get colostrum right away. Was he cleaned? What do you mean by twisted? Do you mean, the neck and head were twisted back? Does the ewe feed both?

I know that intervention is the cardinal sin of the ewe and evil to the shepherd but you have some years of it ahead of you until you cull yourself into nonintervention and the only way to do that is to be present for it, to see it so that you can remove it from your flock. And with 15 ewes, it is best to save these lambs, at least get the money for them in the meantime.

I would look very hard at your maiden ewes. They can be your fresh start. Are your maiden ewes 2 years old? Keep the twinners and the more vocal ewes and the more vocal lambs for that matter, the ones who look back all the time or who tuck their lambs and retrieve them and then keep their females. Create new habits in your young sheep with first time lambs. Most of my flock are the go out and drag their lambs on great grazing trips pretty much right away but this can be done without losing your triplets because the finns are the most likely to do that here and they always have plenty. Even a maiden ewe with a single, if she does all the right things with one, she will do them right with more.

If you do this, you will really have something to sell. You could make a list a few weeks after lambing ends of the ewes who are for sure in your flock because they are good mothers. Then you can make a second list of iffy ewes who are given a second chance on probation if you are split on the decision. Can you lamb at a year or do you do two? And then the rest you can sell at weaning this year. And then at lamb selling time, choose the ewe lambs with either the best mothers or the multiple births, then later, you can choose for both at the same time. Once you have the mothering ability and passion for it in place in your flock, you can revert to big paddocks and whatever exactly when you need them because you have a lot more sheep by then but they are able to handle it and their lambs.

The least intervention you will have to do would be on twinners though. If you select heavily for trips, you will occasionally need to sort things out. It won't ever be a completely hands off lambing. With the right mothers though, that would be the end of it, you wouldn't be chasing lambs, of course, if that is really the part you dislike. I never chase any lambs and not because they are tame! LOL.

It could be fun for you with good note taking and a real plan in place with your goals.

That is good. I don't think my ewes have nerve issues then. My other thought was lice then but I would see more leg chewing and wool pulling I think.
I am going to join you soon with the lambing posts. I hope I have a better lambing than in the Spring. I did some bad things.
Kirsten Wendt
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby Jon Carter » Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:33 pm

dog wrote:
The Wiltshire horn is a good mother however the cross with the merino to produce the wiltipolls tends to throw the bad mothering gene of the merino now and then. Merinos tend to have problems looking after one offspring let alone twins or trips.


I think the majority of Wiltipolls down there were bred up from Merinos mainly because there are so many of them and you loose half of each lamb crop to horns in the upgrade process so big numbers would be an advantage. There are some Wiltipoll studs that sourced there poll gene from other breeds and have no Merino in them. I know the Wonoka stud's original Wiltipoll flock was bred up from Perendales and have since started seperate lines based on White Suffolk and Poll Dorset and are currently working on a White Dorper line. (Looking at the pics of the White Dorper/Wiltipoll composites on their website I can see why those crosses have done well in carcass competitions) Anyhoo, might be something to think about when you start shopping for a new ram.

Jon
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby springfarms » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:35 am

Saffronsheepranch wrote:Are you guys saying that selecting for wool ruined the merino sheep?
It is Spring for you, isn't it?
Springfarm, are you working with that much land?
So they can't keep lambs together because the ewe has to forage a very large area and the lambs don't keep up? One nap and they are lost?

I am going to join you soon with the lambing posts. I hope I have a better lambing than in the Spring. I did some bad things.


Yes it is Spring over here and a very dry one at that. Where I live many paddocks are 250 acres plus. The size of the machnery is very big, the farms are big and cropping probably brings in 90% of the income. Although some farmers are experimenting with Affrinos because the mothering ability appears better, even if the wool is down a bit

My farm is tiny at 200 acres and was baiscally one paddock with bush, granite outcrops and gullies with a mix of nice soils and poorer soils. I am fencing it bit by bit. At the moment I have a 50 acre paddock for the ewes, but it is a very odd shape with an old fencline running through it and lambs can get separated if they take a nap. I do have a point where I have feed and water for them and they have some favourite areas of shade so I think the lambs would probably find their mothers.

The ewes are interesting. I have a couple that are very vocal and they count their lambs. If their babies wander of they will run all over the place calling frantically untill they have them all gathered, while others seem completely oblivious to being a lamb down.

My maiden ewes are 12 months old now. The first one lambed the other day and she cant bear to let her lamb out of her sight which is a good sign hopefully.

The twisted lamb was not able to stand, her hind legs went one way and her front legs the other. I fed her some colostrum I had stored and I got her upright. I penned her with her mother but she just wouldnt find the teat, and her mother seemed much more interested in the other lamb, then overnight she injured her knee, dont know how, so I am bottle feeding her.

I penned and am handfeeding the troublesome ewe that kept losing her babies and all is fine now and I will wait till the lambs are a bit older.

Goodluck with your lambing! I am still waiting on my maiden ewes with baited breath!
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:58 pm

That is good that you don't have to wait 2+ years to see if a ewe is a dud. That would slow progress terribly.
It sounds like you already see what you should do between all your ewes. I might give the twisted lamb's dam another try though. Her disinterest is probably entirely instinctual and also reasonable in this case. She knew it wasn't right and she can't save it.

I would sell the tripleter who loses her lambs. It is a shame though. Did she keep two lambs together last year?

I still have 3 1/2 weeks to go until we start, all older ewes.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby DeltaBluez Tess » Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:18 pm

I had a first time mom lamb out a huge single...birth was hard and she didn't want her lamb...had Tess back her into a corner and then her lamb started to nurse...she was a ok mom that year and since she was a first timer, I marked her as a "one more chance for next year"...her lamb was fat and never missed a meal.

she had trips thr next year and was the demon mom! In a good way. NO ONE, not even Tess could get close to her lambs. She would swirl around and do anything to protect the three lambs that would go every which way....she would always call to them and never be more than few feet away....she let Kodi (LGD) get about 10 feet away and stamped her hoof and he wisely stayed out of the danger zone....after a few days, she was better but still keen on her lambs.....they all grew fat with no supplement. at three months, she still was watchful on her lambs and would do the gentle nickering to them.

now, she twins every years and still is the best mom.....she will even do the lamb races with the lambs. her lambs have been excellent moms too...he has easy births since them.

Had I culled her on the first lambing, I would have culled one of my best moms...I give first timers one chance.

But having said that, I keep records and no second chances and if a lines does not fill out well or any health issues, bad feet, hard keepers, bad udders etc...I will removed that entire line....I took out five generations of my Clun Forest based on my records....ewes were hard keeprs and lambs slow to grow and were hard keepers and middle of the pack in mothering....they were fantastic looking pretty sheep but looks don't help pay for the farm when you sell them as locker lambs...locker weight on these lambs were 7 lbs less not matter how much feed....
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby springfarms » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:36 pm

This is only my second year and first year lambing with all the older ewes I got from a neighbour. So I dont know the history of some of the older ewes that I have and my neighbour is a bit evasive and hard to pin down on the subject, so I will just have to make the call on the older ewes as I see it this year. The one with triplets is raising 3 very nice lambs but her behaviour at lambing had a lot to be deistred so am in 2 minds about her. The ones which abandoned the weak twin are very good with their other lamb so will reconsider about them.

I will need to start to keep records as my numbers are getting to the stage with all the ewe lambs I have this year to be able to start culling.

My maiden ewes I will give a second chance, but the older ewes should be experienced mothers so I should be strict.

Do bad udders tend to run in lines?

As to Jons ram suggestion. I was thinking about a Wilti/Dorper cross but am a little nervous about the Dorper reputation around here as an escape artist. My neighbours primarily have fine wool merinos and I wouldnt want my ram roaming the countryside. A farmer in the area got into Dorpers and found them impossible to contain with normal merino type fencing so he got rid of the lot which is why I chose wiltis, although I would rather have got into Dorpers and quite like the idea of wilti dorper crosses.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby dog » Thu Sep 20, 2012 7:36 am

Are you guys saying that selecting for wool ruined the merino sheep?

no I don't consider the merino to be ruined in any way - it is just the way the merino is- best described by our Bush Poet Bango Paterson
http://alldownunder.com/australian-authors/banjo-paterson/merino-sheep.htm


The 85% is weaning rate - however it is not all due to the mismothering factor - a large part of it is due to predator loss mainly from foxes, feral cats, wild dog, pigs and dingo's - foxes accounting for a large part of that. Apart from the mismothering in the merino - the merino lamb also has problems in that it will follow any thing that moves ie it sees an upright "sheep" walking on 2 legs, a 'ewe' on four or two wheels. To a merino lamb any thing that moves is mother - basically for the mother’s lack of interest in where her offspring is the lamb has just as strong an interest in getting back to mother no matter what it actually is. Once a merino lamb decides your mother it can follow for miles no matter how much you try to persuade it otherwise. Merino lambs are also excellent milk stealers if they have to be. Pre LGD on my stud I was looking at 85 to 90% weaning rate with Poll Dorsets (mainly due to fox and dingo) with the LGD that evened out to 100% and higher however the fact that I had a large dog loose at night was a concern with farms around me with one farmer waiting for the opportunity to shoot the dog before it could ‘kill’ their sheep

The other argument that has been going on for years down here is that a merino that has twins will only be able to raise one in our environment - ie while she concentrates on one the fox will take the other. We do regular predator control programs to decrease the fox and feral cat population usually by baiting. With feral pig we trap and with wild dog we both bait and trap. During lambing we also usually spot light in the Ute around the boundaries. LGD’s are not as common down here as in the USA and in some areas are a problem with the baiting and trapping programs.

I am not too sure what the fox problems are in WA but trips in the Australian environment are not really feasible – in a hobby situation trips may be possible but if one then costs the venture on a commercial basis they end up as the highest cost lambs around with the degree of labor required to keep them alive till weaning. And I really don’t see the logic in selecting for Trips or even Twins if one only ends up with singles at weaning. There are other more important traits to concentrate on.

As Springfarms points out it is now spring and on the eastern coast it is also dry and we have a large fire burden due to winter rains - also with a El Nino forecasted it is unliley we will get our spring break so it is going to be hard times this lambing by the looks of it.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby springfarms » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:17 am

dog wrote:
Are you guys saying that selecting for wool ruined the merino sheep?

Pre LGD on my stud I was looking at 85 to 90% weaning rate with Poll Dorsets (mainly due to fox and dingo) with the LGD that evened out to 100% and higher however the fact that I had a large dog loose at night was a concern with farms around me with one farmer waiting for the opportunity to shoot the dog before it could ‘kill’ their sheep

I am not too sure what the fox problems are in WA but trips in the Australian environment are not really feasible – in a hobby situation trips may be possible but if one then costs the venture on a commercial basis they end up as the highest cost lambs around with the degree of labor required to keep them alive till weaning. And I really don’t see the logic in selecting for Trips or even Twins if one only ends up with singles at weaning. There are other more important traits to concentrate on.


Foxes can be a problem and they are baited for - often mainly to protect native species in national parks and farmers get together and do a fox cull periodically. I have seen foxes and feral cats in my area but so far havent had any problems. I smell fox often when I walk around the paddocks. In some agricultural areas that butt on to the rangelands wild dogs are a terrible problem. There is funding to build a new section of dog barrier fence but untill then people have all but given up running sheep in those areas and in some of the rangelands pastoralists have switched to cattle. The loss of sheep can be heavy. I think the sheer scale of farming makes the use of LGDS more difficult in some areas where farms are usually 15-30,000 acres and in the pastoral areas properties are usually over a million acres.

Farmers are achieving 100% weaning rates or more with Dorpers and breeds other than merinos in some areas. I think most farmers would be happy if every ewe raised a good fat lamb.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:42 pm

You guys must have a larger fox there. Around here, they are 15-20 pounds maybe and I am sure a lamb could outrun them with its longer legs and it weighs just as much as a fox in just a few days, at least twins and singles do.

I liked that writer. I would really love to visit Australia. It would be hard though and quite a switch if I lived there to send them out and receive less than half back in lambs. But I guess it would be too hard to even keep records on 3000 sheep. I suppose everyone there is an excellent shot with so many targets! I am surprised you guys didn't adopt the English tradition of fox hunting. They would have 50 horsepersons chasing one fox, you could have a real fox smorgasbord. Or host hunting competitions- whoever brings in the most dead predators gets a big prize. Host a big weekend with an entry fee, make them camp at the homesite and hunt for 3 days straight, everyone gets a map, international invitations with a bonfire at the end. That would be great fun and they would pay to clear your land or at least pay for their food while there and you can spit roast a lamb to feed them all. But I am more a crossbreed, huh? :lol:
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby springfarms » Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:28 pm

My main problem with foxes is that they decimate the local small marsupial and bird populations, mind you feral cats are even worse. I dont think a fox has any problem overpowering a weak newborn. Also I guess they also scavenge the abandoned lambs that die. When many thousands of sheep are lambing they have a smorgasbord. It is not uncommon in small flocks for people to have alpaccas as fox guards.

Most farmers around here are pretty good shots and most foxes and rabbits are killed cleanly. I cant say I enjoy hunting one bit, but the men like to get together and do a cull every now and then and go spotlighting from the back of a ute. Once was enough for me. There has at times been a bounty on foxes scalps.

I cant see the average Australian farmer riding a horse anymore LOL. The original foxes were bought to Australia so that the English immigrants could enjoy a spot of fox hunting like back in the old country.

Australia is a tough country to farm in some areas for sure. Over the last decade whith the variable and poor seasons many people have left the farm and where I live there are many abandoned farm houses left to become ruins. You have to be resilient with a good head for making the right decisions to survive and even then you are at the whim of the seasons.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby Darroll Grant » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:00 pm

A 35# coyote can kill a 175# ewe so a 15# fox can kill a 30# lamb with no big problem. A big raccoon can kill 50# lambs. With man being the primary fox predator in Australia it is easy to understand why fox numbers explode with decent rabbit numbers. Lambs are easier to catch than rabbits.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby dog » Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:12 pm

I am surprised you guys didn't adopt the English tradition of fox hunting.


we do have fox hunting however it is a little bit different then ho0w the English do it. You need a Ute, a driver who knows where all the wombat holes etc are and then you fill up the back of the ute with some well rugged up men and boys with shot guns, ,22's, .25/30's probably a.30/06 and just in case a .303. A carton or two of beer and spot lights so powerfull that they almost require their own power station. If you could fit all of that on ahorse we would probablyy use a horse instead of the Ute.

Foxes kill in several ways - by attacking the ewe during birth, by attacking the lamb straight after birth, by attacking lambs while they are asleep - they seldom run a lamb down, feral cats will stred the backside of a ewe and eat the lamb as it is being born - usually the ewe will die.

In this area wild dog packs were the biggest problem ( very few sheep here any more due to dogs) they will stay out of sight of spotlighters and then in the very early hours of the morning work a lambing paddock - all that is left is bits and pieces of 200+lambs spread around the paddock. We have what is commonly called "Dog Clubs' entry to the club is via invitation ( based on your ability to shoot) the club holds regular dog shoots with half the members acting as beaters and the other half form the shoot line across a ridge, we work several square miles in one shoot. With feral pigs we use contract pig shooters and trappers Pigs can do as much damage as a pack of wild dogs.

some sheep farmers reckon that our native eagle accounts for lamb deaths however I have never seen or heard of an wedge tailed eagle taking a live lamb - I have seen them take a dead one - they can fly with that weight but they have problems taking off with such a weight and need to walk out to good flat cleared ground to actually take off
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby springfarms » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:01 am

That reminds me when I was putting in cotton up near WeeWaa many years ago, of the professionl pig shooters who used to come in and work through the night. The pile of feral pigs after they had finished was huge.

Over here a few farmers I knew claimed that the Wedgetail was responsible for many lamb deaths when they first started lambing with Dorpers in the summer. They are magnificent birds, I had one pluck up a very big snake about 10 metres from me in a paddock. I always know when the rabbits are getting bad in a rocky warren area as you see them circling above for days.
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Re: Lambing update and question

Postby dog » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:14 am

That reminds me when I was putting in cotton up near WeeWaa many years ago

I was there in the early 60's - cotton has to be the worse plant that god ever put on earth - inb the summer period in WeeWaa we used to start work at around 3am till about 10am then sleep or at least try to till about 3pm and then work till about 7pm - even with those hours we used to get so badly burnt with the sun that we would blister then as we only had bore water to shower in the skin and blisters used to get real hard and the skin would simply fall away -made a lot of money but give me wool anytime

Our l;argest Cotton farm Cubbie Station (135square Kilometers with its 500,000 megalitres of store3d water) is just in the process of being sold to the Chinese
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