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Friday, April 24, 2009

Just lucky?

Isn't she lovely? She was born a few days ago at Garrett Ramsay's farm in Minneesoatah....Out of the lovely girl I bought last year from Stephen, Sheltering Pines Snow Cloud, a Katmoget, and sired by Wintertime Jazz, also a Katmoget...obviously they carried spots! to my thoughts for the day. It's interesting how we feed our Shetlands. Everyone is different in their methods. I've had an interesting lambing year here, with 4 separate breeding pens to assess how things 'work' shall we say. Lots of 'old timers' have theories.....and many times they are pretty much 'spot on'. Here's one - feed your ewes well and get them well filled out before breeding season. Keep feeding them quite well through breeding season to lambing. You'll increase the numbers of lambs. I had that ability to do so with my unregistered group - we have plenty of low-moisture 2nd cutting bailage round bales this winter so they got them as needed. Those girls are the most 'robust' in condition after lambing I've ever - yes ever - had. Plump for Shetlands. And I had the most twins and even a set of triplets ever! And what is the ratio? Yes, 2 boys to every girl born. At least. It might be close to 3 boys to every 1 ewe lamb now, I need to go double check.

There is an old theory out there that when the supply of food is great, there are many boys born. When it's poor, there are 'replacement' girls born, outnumbering the boys by far, and of course, lower numbers of lambs born overall - more singles than twins.

Ok, let's go over to pen #2. They didn't get grained in the fall, their setup isn't quite as perfect as pen #1 - more of an open shed and the gate not closed at night for additional heat (our gates are covered for the sheds). They also didn't get bailage, since there is not enough room in their setup for a round bale, but instead, 1st cutting grass hay that was not the very best - our summer last year was miserable for hay production and the hay shows it too. So far, 4 of the 6 ewes have lambed. Each with only a single. Body condition is fairly typical although I would say I'd like to have seen a bit more weight on them when we sheared last month! AUGH! Hay was not only at a premium but in short supply, so 'it shows'. BUT, of the 4 lambs born, all were standing up immediately after birth, all were born easily and of very good weight and size, and 3 of the 4 were girls. Hmmmmm.........

Now I have 2 other breeding pens. They are right next to each other. They got grain along with the marginal hay. One is a senior ram, one is a young ram lamb from last year. The senior ram girls are showing pregnancy, the young ram lamb's girls are not. Not really anyways, so far, but perhaps a little udder growth, so late season arrivals at best. In the senior ram's pen, only 1 has lambed so far but it too was a girl. Several others are getting closer to lambing. Time will tell what we end up with there.

So, lambing of the registereds so far is 5 girls have lambed, all were singles, and 4 of the 5 are girls. We'll see how the numbers work out in the end, but perhaps those 'old timers' knew what they were talking about? When you really need the numbers, feed them up.........when you really need replacement ewe lambs, be careful of over-feeding???????????? Hmmmmmmmm.........Just lucky?


Kara said...

Have you heard the pumpkin theory? Now I don't know if there is much to it but my ewes were pretty well fed and had lambs mostly in the 6-8 pound range. I did flush with pumpkin and maybe I was just lucky but I ended up with 13 ewe lambs and 8 (7) rams lambs. I had 6 sets of twins, 1 set of triplets with two ewes and one stillborn ram, and 6 singles. Seven first time moms, three of those were yearlings.

Garrett808 said...

I"ve heard all the theories and tried them. Truth be told that the RAM is the one who decides the sex of the babies as they have the 'Y' maybe feed the rams pumpkin and the rams more feed?

Its true the ewes will ovulate more depending on 'flushing' or not. My flock is also quite young, so most of my girls are three and younger so not expecting many twins from them. The mature girls absolutely need to at least twin. As so far this year my lamb weights have been from 5pounds to 8 pounds, with the average being 6.65 right now :) 21 RAMS and 8 ewes (including my BFL ewe and your ewe lamb)

Alaska Shetland Shepherd said...

Well, if you want to get even MORE interesting theories, use the one that dog breeders swear to -
the earlier you can breed at the point of ovulation, the more girls you will get. Since the male sperm swim fast but not for very long, and the female sperm swim slower but much longer/further, if you can catch the eggs as they are being released by the ovaries into the tubes, you'll have more girls - or so goes the theory!

BTW Garrett - what did you feed this year for hay? And wow Kara you did great! Too bad we can't grow pumpkins up here!

Garrett808 said...

i feed alfalfa blended with grass hay, alfalfa pellets, beet pulp blended with kelp/DM/dynamin/salt/sheep mineral/charcoal and also have molasses lick tubs for sheep specifically :)plus unlimited pasture of mostly grasses and a few forbes (read: weeds):)

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Very interesting reading, Suzanne; keep us posted as your lambing progresses. My ewes were fed well, 3rd cutting orchard grass and a bit of grain (to lead them in and out of pasture). But I got two singles (one from a yearling and one from five-year-old Dinah, who twinned with Blanche last year) and two sets of twins, 4 ramlings and two ewes. I've heard your dog-breeding theory, only applied to humans. Far easier to do with both species, I think, than with sheep. Theories like pumpkin I tend to disregard, because if they REALLY work, wouldn't the breeders who use them ALWAYS have a higher percentage of ewes?

Jenny Holden said...

These theories are interesting. I had thought that since my girls were getting very little extra this year and have been through a bit of stress moving etc, I'd get a good number of ewes but it hasn't worked out at all. Ah well... maybe I'll try pumpkins next year, lol!