Ewe lamb rams

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Ewe lamb rams

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:01 pm

Now that I have a few lambings under my belt, it seems to me that having to pull lambs is almost entirely contributable to the rams.
The first year I bred sheep, I used a purebred show style dorset and pulled no lambs. The second year I used a texel finn and pulled no lambs, not even any ewe lamb lambs- he produced a startlingly uniform flock, perfect. I kept him as my ewe lamb ram for 2 more years and let him breed a few other small ewes- never pulled a lamb of his in the 3 years I had him. Year 3, I started using a Finn/dorset on my ewes. I didn't write down if I had to pull any lambs the first year but I don't think so because it is only in the last 2 years that lambs have needed to be pulled on my place excepting one breech sired by a one testicle ram lamb sired by the texel. The last 2 lambings were particularly dreadful with a lot of dystocia including one completely backward facing lamb with legs trapped downward by another lamb. Because I had sold the texel, I used this Finn/dorset on my ewe lambs. Before I had always been sensitive that ewe lambs need an appropriate ram but since no one has ever even mentioned this in the 6 years I have been paying attention, I just went for it with this ram. Every single one of his lambs in ewe lambs had to be pulled. Every single one of them caught at the shoulders, in 2 cases, there was a leg turned back because of the shoulders issue. Oh. Excepting the ewe lamb that had twins. There was always a head and feet or foot there. Actually, I helped a few ewes too who were having off years- 3 of them had singles which has never happened before and I did just pull those lambs the rest of the way. A 16 pounder and a 13 pounder out of a ewe with the smallest vagina in my flock. I didn't flush.

But anyway, if that texel did not become obsessed with me and mean, I would have kept him forever since I don't keep from my ewe lambs. I didn't even have to pay attention to lambing ewe lambs when he was the sire. Now how do I find another perfect ewe lamb ram? His genetics were so strong that not even the black of a suffolk cross or the speckles of a finn cross could penetrate his progeny. I guess he also had perfect shoulders although I forgot to notice. He produced perfect heads, exactly the same. How can you tell which rams can exert a perfect powerful influence over any ewe he breeds especially in a very mixed flock like my own?

The other problem is that I do prefer those lambs that have the prominent shoulders, those stocky critters and I do have some but- forget it. I think with the types of ewes I employ that I had best pick a middle ground in this area. I get some extra finny gazelles too in my lambs which I don't keep but generally we lean toward sleeker and not stocky here. But anyway, his lambs do not grow fast for all the extra muscling so he was gorgeous but a total bust in my opinion. Now I have no rams.

If I buy a ram of a certain breed, worse a ram lamb of a certain breed, then of course, the data will show that they do well on their breed of sheep but that doesn't mean that I won't be pulling that ram's lambs. Their data will show a very uniform flock, a "dominance" genetically because they were using uniform ewes thus they have proved nothing to me. Does anybody sell 5 year old ewe lamb rams where they pulled none and lambed by one year? Does anybody else keep special rams for ewe lambs? I do want to flesh my lambs out but how can I do that without buying the shoulders/hulk? Go back to texel crosses? There can't be many people producing finn/texels. I was going to go polypay but I am not sure that will flesh anything out and it may just give me taller sheep to feed. Maybe straight texels? The texel in my flock was a total oopsie. People brought me the wrong ram. It is strange to think I could be a breeder of texels. I know it is terribly pathetic of me not to have decided where I want to go with my sheep in 6 years. I can't account for it.

I put a hulking like 300 pound dorset on my ewes for the Fall, if they bred. I might need the texel to make them reasonable sized again.

Anyway, has anyone had the perfect ewe lamb ram?
How about the perfect ram where they didn't have dystocia or had to pull more than the occasional goofed up trip. At least a third of my flock triplets every time. Of course, that could be part of my problem, waiting for mostly trips to be fat lambs! Long wait. Sorry so long.
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Re: Ewe lamb rams

Postby kris » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:10 am

In the decade that I have been raising a mixed breed of sheep, I have never used a ram specific for my ewe lambs or my yearlings. I wait for the young ewes to reach about 80% of their adult weight and throw them in at the end of the breeding season with the ram of the year. Sometimes they breed and sometimes they don't.

It sounds to me that you are trying to make a terminal sire decision for market lambs. Like me, with no uniformity within your flock, adding the genetics from one ram will bring a variety of surprises. Be content with the surprises or start again with a purebreed flock of ewes.

Good luck.
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Re: Ewe lamb rams

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:50 pm

Thank-you. I think you summed it up for me except that I am still building my flock so I will be keeping the offspring as breeders too. I looked at pictures of my old rams and pics of tons of texels and I just couldn't see why my dorset/finn would get caught at the shoulders and another wouldn't. Maybe the tex/finn just produced smaller lambs in utero? The ewe lamb lambs this year were 8-10 pounds- is that normal? I guess I maybe don't wait until they are 80% of their weight because being mostly finn, I expect them to lamb between 11-13 months. This year was my first year with ewe lamb misses: 2 and 4 were later than 13 months. I don't anticipate any more misses. The texel/finn sired ewe lambs lambed at 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, 12 and 13 months.

I think I have decided to buy a finn ram and a texel ram and make my own crosses and use the finn ram on the ewe lambs. Then I will be producing the good mothers who will have fat offspring.

Another thing I was interested in knowing is how people found keeping twin ewe lambs as producers has worked out? I keep a lot of twin ewe lambs. If the data shows that one should keep offspring from a ewe and ram mating and that turns out to be two ewe lambs, I was wondering if anyone had seen any disparities between them as producers? Or do you find them comparable?
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Re: Ewe lamb rams

Postby DonDrewry » Fri Jul 20, 2012 3:19 pm

I can give you some insights we've had but I won't claim these are lessons that will stand up in every case.
- Rarely do one of our ewe lambs having twins have lambing difficulty. It's the singles that scare me. We never pregancy scanned as our lambing rates on our mature ewes were feed for at least twins anyway BUT I would feed ewe lambs having singles less generously then ewe lambs having twins if I knew who was going to do what.

- We barn or dry lot lamb so I don't think our experience carries over to pasture lambing. We had less lambing difficulty in ewe lambs when we upped the protein to 14% in their ration and dropped the energy level. Now they get about 3.5 lbs ahead of this ration where before it would be 3-4 pounds of head of straight shelled corn.

- When we started breeding show club lambs that had a bigger emphasis on a longer neck, smoother shoulders that blend well and wide pins lambing difficulty in all our ewes has just about disappeared. The lambs out of ewe lambs tend to be 6-10 lbs, out of mature ewes tend to be 10-16 lbs. This is about the same weights as our Polypays but our Polys would have courser shoulders, shorter necks and narrow pin sets. I can see how a wide pin set is key to less lambing difficulty. We did have a lot more lambing difficulty with our Polys then the club lamb sheep have now. Our first club lamb style ewes were Suffolk ewes that were fairly wide based ewes but their lambs tended to be 16-22 lbs at birth. Most of those lambs I had to pull and at least one of our original ewes died in labor with a 22+ lb lamb.

- I've never used a "ewe lamb" ram. Our breeding programs have always tried to incorporate the ewe lambs in our genetic program as fast as we can and a special ewe lamb ram just doesn't work in the plan.
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Re: Ewe lamb rams

Postby sheepherder56 » Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:07 pm

I have a flock of Suffolk sheep and ,in the past also had a pb Columbia flock. We have for years used a NCC ram on the ewe lambs. I started this when I was working full time+ as the lambs would have extra get up and go which was important to me when it could be a while before I could get to the lambs.Lambing in Feb meant that slow to get going lambs with less attentitive mothers often became dead lambs. Partially the extra vigor would be due to heterosis and partly due to the breed that I chose for a service sire on the ewe lambs. As a side benefit, those NCC X lambs have turned out to be good producers both for me and for other people that have bought them.
I would have to agree with Don that feeding the ewe lambs high energy diets can make an awfully large difference in the size of their lambs. In short hay years when we have tried to stretch hay supplies with barley or oats at higher than normal rates we have had some real wrecks with over sized lambs on ewe lambs.

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Re: Ewe lamb rams

Postby Mike Wallace » Sun Jul 22, 2012 1:09 pm

Saffronsheep,
I got a little confused about what your breeding program was, but got the impression you used a Texel-Finn ram on your ewe lambs for several years and then switched to a different ram and then you started having dystocia issues.
IMO, Texels and Texel-cross ewe lambs coming yearlings are prone to dystocia, more so than many other breeds. If you saw an increase in dystocia, it may have been due to the number of Texel-cross ewes coming into the flock, more so than the sire breed of the lambs or the nutrition during gestation.
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Re: Ewe lamb rams

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:04 pm

In one way, you are right, Mike, I could not see why my finn dorset ram would cause harder births than a texel ram from pictures. It doesn't make sense, hence the post.

But in reality, I only kept back 5 of this ram's lambs. I do not hold back from ewe lambs nor from the smaller ewes that I mated him too. Never pulled one of his lambs from the ewe lambs he sired, nor from any ewe lambs he bred. 4 lambed under a year and one lambed at 13 months. So we had 4 years of no lamb pulling from him whether the whole flock, just the ewe lambs and select small ewes or from his own offspring. My conclusion is that he just produced smaller lambs. He did only weigh 200 pounds. Actually, I held back 2 ewe lambs from his breeding last year, the twinner and one ewe lamb I chased around whom when I finally had down, had the lamb slip out. I forgot these two were sired by him and just lambed.

I just decided to buy a finn ram to put on my ewe lambs and then a texel to put on my ewes and then to eventually make some ram crosses and see what we get. That will be a good safe way to proceed.
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