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Breeding twice a year?

Discussion in 'Breeds & Breeding - Sheep' started by WolfeMomma, Sep 14, 2019.

  1. Sep 14, 2019
    WolfeMomma

    WolfeMomma Loving the herd life

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    I have heard some people breed their ewes twice a year, thoughts on this?
     
  2. Sep 14, 2019
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    It is hard on the ewe, she has no time to recover. I had an oops lamb, the ewe bred back SIX WEEKS after having twins. I thought I could leave the ram in for 2 months, but nope. She had a single ram, I weaned him at two months and am trying to get some meat back on her bones, poor thing. I felt so bad for her.

    There is a program developed by Cornell University where you breed so that the ewes lamb 3 times in 2 years, found a link for you.

    http://blogs.cornell.edu/newsheep/management/reproduction/star-management/

    https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.cornell.edu/dist/f/6685/files/2015/09/wintergrazing-1xsw82s.pdf
     
  3. Sep 15, 2019
    Sheepshape

    Sheepshape Herd Master

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    It can be done, but just 'cos it can be done doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea. As Baymule says, very hard on the ewe. Recovery from birth and lactation takes time, and successful lactation needs a whole lot of food. The ewe with twins needs over twice her usual food intake to grow her lambs whilst maintaining her own body condition. Essentially this means concentrates are the only way to go if the pasture is less than ideal and the ewe strong enough to eat for about 16 hours a day. Concentrates are costly.

    So, possible for certain breeds (those who have one lamb, largely), certain climates, certain pastures etc., but, as a general rule, just too hard on the ewe.
     
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  4. Sep 15, 2019
    WolfeMomma

    WolfeMomma Loving the herd life

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    Thanks for the replies! We don't plan on lambing twice a year, but I was interested in the how and the why of people that do.
     
    Baymule likes this.
  5. Sep 19, 2019
    Ridgetop

    Ridgetop True BYH Addict

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    With adequate nutrition 3 lambings in 2 years can be done. However, this is with specific sheep breeds that are specifically developed for this regime. If you are not providing sufficient nutrition, your ewes will suffer. If your ewes are mainly on pasture, you need to have the pasture grass and soil checked to make sure that there is enough protein in the grass/forage, and enough of the proper minerals in the soil to support an accelerated breeding program. If your pasture does not have the proper amount of protein in the grass, and you do not supplement correctly, you will not be successful in breeding 3 times in 2 years. An accelerated breeding program also requires a lot more attention to record keeping, nutrition, flushing, and ram upkeep than a once yearly breeding schedule.

    The saying was "a lamb for the flock and a lamb for the shepherd", meaning it took 2 lambs to support the shepherd and his flock/farm. Most serious shepherds strictly cull and remove ewes that consistently produce singles. They select for twinning in their replacement ewes. As we all know, ranching and livestock is hard work, with heavy predator losses, and small monetary return. If you are a commercial grower you MUST make a profit or you go broke, lose the farm and your means of livelihood. While many of today's small farmers live on their properties and farm part time while holding down a job in town as well, the saying above shows the need for shepherds to produce enough lambs for sale to support the farmer. In answer to dwindling profits, over the past 50 years commercial producers have combined different breeds of sheep that have excellent out of season breeding ability, good mothering, heavy milking, and prolific lambing ability into several popular breeds with great commercial success in different climate zones.

    By developing breeds that will breed out of season year round, and produce lambs 3 times in 2 years, the sheep industry has given farmers an edge. This increased production helps sheep raisers make money. Often ewes on an accelerated breeding program will produce twins for 2 lambings, but only a single lamb for one of the breedings. This still gives you 5 lambs in a 2 year period. For commercial sheep production operations, this gives the shepherd an extra lamb to sell during the 2 year period, thus more money in his pocket. Ranching is hard work and the $$ return is not high so any extra income from that extra lamb is welcome. When you multiply the 1 extra lamb per ewe by a commercial flock of 500 to 1000 ewes, then multiply that number by the number of productive years in a ewe's life, the financial return can be considerable. In a home flock, that extra lamb multiplied by just a few sheep may not seem to bring much extra income so home breeders can decide whether to breed an accelerated program or not.

    Hope this helps you understand the reason why there are specific sheep breeds that will breed year round and produce lambs 3 times in 2 years. There are also some ancient breeds that will breed like this too. I try to breed my ewes to produce 3 lamb crops in 2 years. My ewes lambed last year in December and are lambing again this month. They have been at a body condition score of around 3 - 3.5 throughout their gestations. The first ewe produced twins, and the next 2 are due this month. When the lamb are 4 months old, they should be about 100 lbs. which is my sale weight. I do not have any good pasture as such, but if the rains come I have excellent forage (green weeds and brush) and I give a small ration of rolled barley corn at night when bringing them into the night fold. When we don't have any fresh forage the sheep will graze off the dried forage if we do not feed them. However, we don't like our sheep to get underweight since they are always either pregnant, nursing, or flushing in preparation for being bred. We feed good quality alfalfa hay most of the year. This year with the amount of rain we got over a long period of time we did not have to feed hay for 4 months! Unbelievable and so nice for the wallet! We like to feed well - it makes us feel more comfortable to know that our animals are in good condition. My Dorpers do very well on this and stay in a condition score of about 3 year round, open, pregnant or nursing. I have a very small flock so we can give extra attention to our sheep and lambs. We weigh our lambs at birth and then every week after that to make sure they are on track in their weight gain. This helps us to decide if we need to supplement more or hold back a bit on our feeding program.
     
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  6. Sep 26, 2019
    WolfeMomma

    WolfeMomma Loving the herd life

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    If my ewe is already pregnant and on track for jan/feb lambs I could breed her again for fall lambs? We have an extremely small flock. They have access to very good pasture and are grain-fed high quality. They are show ewes ( well were they just had their last show) They are very spoiled girls lol
     
  7. Sep 26, 2019
    Ridgetop

    Ridgetop True BYH Addict

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    You can certainly try this approach if you are interested in an accelerated breeding program. Remember this will require a higher degree of nutrients, and more supervision of the flock.

    However, you said this is a show flock and you are actively showing your sheep.. You are interested in keeping, showing, and selling show stock is that right? If so, you need to know at which shows you plan to exhibit. There is a big difference between commercial breeding and show breeding in the timing of lambings.

    When breeding commercial (for meat alone) there is little worry about when lambings take place, other than weather and abundance of grazing or forage. You breed, lamb, feed, get the lambs to 90-100 lbs. (or whatever your commercial desired weight is, and then off to the packer or buyer. It is not necessary with a commercial flock like this to be strict on breeding for lambs every 8 months. Some ewes will cycle back for rebreeding in 2-3 months, others will cycle for breeding back in 4-5 months. A lot depends on their nutrient intake, weaning dates for their lambs, etc. Earlier weaning will cause earlier cycling back to rebreed. But it can also set back the lambs' individual daily weight gain a bit when they are deprived of mama's rich milk. The weaned lambs are then held on pasture to bring them up to the weight needed by the packers. The ewes can be flushed and rebred result in an 8-9 month lambing schedule.

    If you are breeding commercially for ethnic holidays and buyers, you obtain a calendar of those dates (which often change from year to year) and grow your lambs to weights that will be attractive for those buyers, usually BBQ size up to 60 lb. Those lambs are often market right off their mothers without weaning. Those ewes an then be flushed and rebred, fitting into an 8 months lambing program.

    Weight gain in lambs averages from 2 lbs. daily to 1/2 lb. daily depending on breed feed and age of the lamb. There is a lot of information on the internet about these subjects so I won't address them now.

    Let's get to the show flock. With registered livestock there are specific dates that are cut off dates for ages in the show ring. Dairy goats use January 1. Your doe kids will be at a disadvantage if they are born in December because they will have to show against animals a whole year older until they come into milk. Horses and cattle have annual cut off dates too. Tennessee Walking Horses are preferred to be born in the late fall. Foals born in the spring are 6-8 months younger when competing against the older foals in the same age classes and suffer in comparison.

    Sheep have options depending on the breed. Wool breeds usually are born in the early spring through May/June. They are annual breeders, and their registries usually are similar to dairy goats, cattle and horses. Hair breeds such as Katahdins and Dorpers are out of season breeders and can be born any time of the year. FYI: I don't know anything about Katahdins, their registry, or their shows, however, Dorpers are divided into spring and fall lambs, and yearlings. Ewes older than 1 year old are not shown, they are expected to be lambing in the pasture making money for the shepherd. Older rams can occasionally be shown as stud rams.

    First thing you want to determine is in which shows you will be showing. Are these 4-H animals? When is the 4-H Fair in your area? Will these animals be competing in open shows, breed shows, or County Fairs that also have open breed shows? If they will be competing with their own breed in a breed show, then you want to find out which classes are available to you. If in a 4-H or Fair show, here they will be showing against a class of multiple breeds, again you will need to know whether the cut off dates are based on wool breed (single breeding season) sheep or hair sheep which may then offer both a spring lamb and fall lamb class. If you will be showing only in breed shows with spring and fill lamb classes, check to find out the cut off dates for the spring and fall lamb dates. In breed shows you will have to submit registration papers and your lambs will be moved into the correct classes by the Show Stewards checking papers. Hopefully the Show Superintendant will not be hard-nosed and DQ you. (Rarely happens.)

    You have to decide if moving into an accelerated program with a limited flock is worth your effort. Like I say, you will have to superintend the animals very carefully, and male sure that you have the correct nutrient levels in their feeding program. You will have to be aware of their condition scores by tough (even hair sheep grow a skimpy wool coat that can disguise condition) . If you have your own ram, you will have to make sure he wears a marking harness, check the rumps of your ewes daily, and change the colored crayons every 14-18 days to make sure of the breeding dates. Oh yes! don't forget to mark the dates on the calendar, then count ahead the 5 months and5 days to the lambing date! (Happens to all of us occasionally! LOL) If you don't own your own ram, then you will have to trust the breeder to do this for you. Waiting breathlessly for lambs to arrive may be fun for the first few years, but in the end you like having lambing dates to help you.

    Hope this helps your decision to accelerate lambing in your flock. It's a lot more work, but of you only have a few sheep can be profitable. In the case of a 4-H shepherd, it doubles the teaching experience, and allows them to report more in their record book if they are going for medals.
     
  8. Sep 26, 2019
    Mike CHS

    Mike CHS Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    @Ridgetop, that is one of the best and most detailed posts I have seen on this topic.
     
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  9. Oct 10, 2019
    Ridgetop

    Ridgetop True BYH Addict

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    Thank you Mike. Your praise means a lot to me.

    I spent 30 years learning all this stuff so I like to pass it on when I can. If being detailed can help people, it is worthwhile. Some times I think I put in too much detail since I type so fast. On the other hand, reading my post back, all the typos are embarrassing - hopefully they were decipherable! LOL

    I am trying to convince Baymule and her DH to go to the National Katahdin show next year. You and Teresa exhibit there right? Those shows are so much fun! Listening to the judge's comments on the entries is really educational, and so many judges are kind enough to discuss their comments with exhibitors and interested spectators afterwards.
     
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  10. Oct 10, 2019
    Mike CHS

    Mike CHS Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    We have only sold at the Tennessee Association sale but we have gone to the Nationals a couple of times. After a few years, it's amazing how many familiar faces are at these events.
     
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