St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

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St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby David » Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:33 pm

On the internet, it is an often-repeated statement that the St. Croix breed of sheep can lamb twice a year. Does anyone know of anyone who actually breeds them for twice a year lambing? Or is this just unsubstantiated hearsay?
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:56 pm

The only footrace I could ever win would be between me, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the shepherd who lambs twice a year with any breed. The reason I would win is that I am the only actual person in the race. The others are all figments of somebody's imagination.
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Brock » Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:26 pm

Hi Bill........explain the inside joke here. My feed guy argues this with me all the time and I'm darn near ready to take 5 years of lambing charts over to him......I do a modified STAR system and it happens regularly.

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Darroll Grant » Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:50 pm

Using 145 day gestation, each ewe would have to successfully rebreed in 37.5 days for a consistent 2 lambings per year each and every year except leap year and then they would have 38 days to rebreed. I have had a ewe or two successfully lamb twice in 175 days, but that was an exception. Might work if lambs were weaned at 3 weeks and the ewes dried off.
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Brock » Wed Nov 02, 2011 7:26 pm

Thanks Darroll......I agree, reality is that part of gestation and/or lactation occur in a different year. The two physical "lambings" most certainly occur in the same year. Also, if you time it right, you can have a ewe that lambs in February with a 60 day lactation that rebreeds and lambs in September/October. That's really pushing the envelope but some ewes do it. I guess it's how you look at it so thanks for that perspective.

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Bill Fosher » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:05 pm

Darroll's laid out the math pretty well. You need to look at the intervals. Suppose you have a STAR ewe who is settling and lambing at every opportunity. In year one, she lambs January 1 and August 15. presto, two lambings per year!. The following year she lambs March 1 and October 15. Bingo, she's done it again! The following year she lambs June 1. The next time she lambs is Feb. 15 of the following year. This is based on an average lambing interval of 7.5 months, and I think Cornell's target is actually just a little shorter than that -- 7.2 months or so, which makes the five breeding/lambing times work out evenly within the year so that lambs are born in the same months year after year. My example moves each lambing ahead a couple of weeks every year.

But Cornell will be quick to tell you that it's a very rare ewe who lambs at every opportunity. The average interval is likely to be much closer to 8 or 10 months, so the average ewe in the Star system is really lambing three times in two years. Still quite a feat of management and production, but not twice a year.
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Ebenezer » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:59 am

We have St Croix and the potential is there for year round breeding. I have done some quick rebreeding and like some have noted, there are times that 2 crops can come in a year but the alternate year will not do the same. But we are not in an area with great soils and consistant weather. When I pushed the ewes to rebreed quickly, there were either less triplets and twins or else I had to supplement the pastures and hay with extra grain. The sheep could do it but it was more than I wanted to afford. We lamb about 9 to 10 months at times that are good for us and we trying to avoid the worst of either summer or winter weather since we choose to pasture lamb without structures and assistance.
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Brock » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:08 pm

I understand but the ole timer feed guy doesn't frame his argument that way, that's all. I took a look at my best ewes and their intervals are between 7-8 months, with an off year of 10-11 months thrown in for good measure. Actually, there's more longevity in the ewes if they have that "break". Prime example, I lost a 5 year old ewe in lactation last week that had lambed consistently at 8 month intervals..........a break or two in there might have made the difference, who knows? I understand Cornell's system but that is much easier to manage with a barn crew, research students, etc. That's why I modify to 3 lambings every 2 years at a schedule that's convenient for me and coccidia..........

On a different note, the replacements needed to maintain accelerated lambing may offset any gain in the 3 in 2 scenario. That's something I didn't really appreciate at the get-go but is very apparent as the flock ages. Just something to think about. I'm guessing you need to save back 20% a year at a minimum for long term sustainability. I don't know if you know what Cornell does/recommends Bill?

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Bill Fosher » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:54 pm

I don't know what Cornell's protocols are, but it was the fact that I was burning out my ewes too fast that made me abandon 3-in-2 back in 1994 or 5. It was a long time ago, but I think I was keeping more like 30 percent of the ewe lambs. Between that and reduced fecundity of ewes that bred on the 8-month interval, I still think that I marketed more lambs per year than I did with a once a year lambing, but I don't think it was radically more.

That and the fact that it was a high-input system at a time when lamb prices were in the toilet. I was better off trying to be the low-cost producer, rather than the high-output producer.
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Janet McNally » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:49 pm

I think the key to this discussion is emphasis on the fact that only *some* ewes can pull it off. I understood the question to be is this feasible all the time as a regular management plan for the whole flock. Seems like the answer is 'no'. that said, the St Croix IS known for being a very fertile aseasonal ewe, and St Croix x Dorsets were found to out produce Finn x Dorsets in a study done in Illinois. But I have yet to have heard of any flock that has lambed 2 x a year, year in, year out... and what I mean is the whole flock... I'll even accept 80% of the flock.

Another consideration whenever one is talking about smaller slower growing breeds is the marketable size of the lamb and total pounds of lamb produced per acre. Smaller ewes mean there is a higher maintenance requirement per 100 lbs of dam, so some feed efficiency is lost that offsets the higher rate of reproduction. There is a further loss in efficiency if lamb weights top off at very light weights thus reducing total pounds of product sold per acre.

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Brock » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:45 pm

I'll be the first to admit that folks best ewes are used as the rule when explaining accelerated lambing. I've gone to several farms locally and the lambing barns in the fall aren't nearly full enough to state that all ewes follow STAR :wink:

Your point about the smaller built, reproductive breeds is valid. I tried 50% Finn and 50% Dorsets and found that triplets require more feed in gestation and weaning weights weren't where I needed them for the feeder market. Weaning triplets at 45 pounds seemed appealing at the time but the input needed post weaning wasn't worth it.....my dorsets and IDF cross lambs were ready at 75-80 days while the Finn lambs took much longer to reach 65-70 pounds. Not to mention that they never really reached the thickness in the rear and across the back that I like out of feeder lambs. I know that Richard has had luck with IDFXDorsetXFinns but he has developed the right blend over time. I didn't have the patience with the Finns.

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby David » Sat Nov 05, 2011 4:05 pm

Interesting discussion. Along similar lines - is it necessary to dry off the ewes in order to bring them into heat for an accelerate breeding program?
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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Janet McNally » Sat Nov 05, 2011 4:38 pm

David wrote:Interesting discussion. Along similar lines - is it necessary to dry off the ewes in order to bring them into heat for an accelerate breeding program?


For a spring breeding, yes. For a fall breeding, not necessary, but you will improve conception rate and fertility if you do.

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby lenajo » Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:22 pm

I know of 2 flocks, both registered producers of breeding stock only, who lambed 4 times a year. They do it by never allowing the lambs to nurse and feeding milk replacer or raw cows milk to the lambs instead.

For both flocks the price they were getting per lamb justified their efforts.

For goats and hair sheep, I've gotten a consistant 3 lambings/kiddings per year by leaving the rams in and removing lambs/kids from their dams at the ewes/does at 8 weeks. It wasn't worth it financially in the long run though - too much loss of life/weight/profit from scattered lambing schedule. We couldn't be as attentive, parasite challanges were too varied within the whole flock, lambs were born in poor weather for growth, etc, etc. Even creep feeding was a mess - you had lambs finishing on starter rations, or little lambs not growing on finisher.

Attempts to schedule 3 concise lambings a year resulted in too many missed ewes during the off seasons.

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Re: St Croix Sheep and Twice a Year Lambing

Postby Looking4ewes » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:21 am

Wendy,

With gestation being 5 months long, how do you get 3 lambings in one year out of one ewe? But I'm really new a this. :P
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