The week before the official start of lambing is here. May 5th is the day we start, but the old Cheviots( or chevyawts as my dad says) usually start a few days early. Last year we had an abortion storm and had about 40 dead lambs in 2 days, all before the "start" of lambing. It was hell on earth and something i hope to not see again, thou as a sheep rancher i am sure i will someday.
Last week we tore out and old alfalfa field and planted it in a sugar ryegrass called http://www.sucraseed.com/ We have another field planted in this seed and we hope to re seed it, and tear up another old pasture this summer and plant with the sucra. With the drought last year we are behind the power curve for graze to keep up with our ever expanding flock.
Spring has also been NO where in sight for April and May, BUT we have lots of water and the irrigation season is ready to start. Some sun would be nice, but hey we can't have it all. I am a little worried about my lambing paddocks as the lack of warm temps has kept the grass growth slow.
My dad comes out each year from Montana and help us lamb for a week. Gpa( as we call him) is an old cattle man, but it did not take him long to figure out the ins and outs of sheep. Last year we had rain and 40 deg for the whole lambing, it was the toughest lambing we have ever had. Gpa said that even thou he used to calf out in -20 deg weather, he would appreciate some nicer weather this year for lambing. :)
The neighbor has been losing lambs to coyotes this past week, he lambs in Feb and March. The trapper has been out to set traps and i have my livestock guard dogs tied up so they don't get in any traps.We have a wonderful trapper who is very attentive to ranchers needs, and skilled at his job. I was on my run this am with a few of my working dogs, being very careful to keep the dogs on the ditch road, so they would not get in any traps on the hill.
There was a trap on the edge of the ditch road and it caught my young dog Star. He has very lucky that there was no damage to his foot and i was able to free him quickly. Marty talked to the trapper and he said the rest of the traps are on the hill, but i wont be taking any chances. I thought all the traps were on the hill ,or i would not have had my dogs with me on the road.
I hope the trapper has some luck in the next few weeks before we get into full swing lambing. My older LGD Ella will not leave the lambing area and with that and electric fence, i feel like we have good protection...but you still worry. With the loss of our LGD Boomer we are down a dog this year, and the pup Max is too young to be out in the lambing paddocks.
The main irrigation line needs to be put back in and the wheels lines readied for irrigation. I big wind storm yesterday pulled a section of wheel line loose and flung it across several fields. About a mile of a neighbors wheel line was taken into a steep ditch. These lines were all staked down, so that was some big wind.
Lambing supplies have been stocked, lamb ear tags are here, and we will sort the two lambing groups and turn them out wend. The older ewes go across the road and the young first timers go into the back pasture, where we can keep a better eye on them.
This is our first year using Janet McNally's http://www.tamaracksheep.com/ bucks. Janet's flock is enrolled in Lambplan http://www.sheepgenetics.org.au/lambplan/
LAMBPLAN provides practical information for terminal, maternal and dual purpose sheep producers on the genetic potential of their animals. Sheep are ranked according to various production characteristics using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs). ASBVs are available for growth, carcase, wool, reproduction and internal parasite (worm) resistance. ASBVs are directly comparable across flocks within a breed and across breed in the terminal sire group of breeds.
The commercial cattle and hog industry has been using this type of information for many years. The sheep industry is well behind in this area. If you are not buying rams with "numbers" to back them up, you may want to read up on the advantages of buying ewes or rams from a breeder enrolled in Lambplan ,or NSIP http://nsip.org/
Our kids are both playing baseball all month, with games 4 days a week between the two of them. With lambing coming on and baseball ,there wont be much time in May to train dogs for the upcoming summer trials. I will use my young dog Mint as my main lambing dog. As much as i enjoy watching a young dog handle the work of pasture lambing, it is not the best prep for the trial field. The work does involve some patience, which is always helpful, but it also requires a lot of calling in on singles and slicing of flanks.
Mint loves and excels at the tough, stressful ranch work, but i expect it to take longer for her to acquire the finesse needed on the trial field. I think she will get there, but the balance to find a tough ranch dog, which is also a good trial dog, is not that easy.
The trial dog VS the ranch dog is a contentious topic i shall save for another day!