Friday, September 23, 2011

Just Add Water

This time of year we wean the lambs and we also try to get an average weight. The lambs are around 100 days old when we wean, and this year we got the weights 2 weeks post weaning. All our lambs are on a grass only system. This means our ewes and  lambs are never feed any grain or other food concentrates.

This is also our first year using Janet McNally's Tamarack bucks a Dorset and Ile de France cross.

Our ewes are from Richard Hamilton and Hamilton Brothers sheep. Hamilton brothers raises 3-4 thousand commercial white face sheep in CA. The Hamilton family has been engaged in agriculture, including sheep production, in California for more than 130 years.  Their sheep are a cross of Targhee/Rambouilett and Finn. We buy replacement lambs from Richard instead of breeding our own replacements.  We do this for two reasons.  We can buy fall ewe lambs from Richard and by the time we breed them in December,  they are much more able/fit to handle the stress of lambing  than if we breed our own spring ewe lambs.

Most winters we can still be on alfalfa stubble graze when we put the bucks in.  The stubble is usalluy  1-5 miles from our ranch, and we like to put all the bucks in with the flock and not have separate breeding groups.

This spring was cold and wet, and we had some new seeding that did not come up. This meant the ewes were pushed very hard the first 6 weeks after we lambed.  We got some triticale planted and once the warm weather came the food took off.

"Does this clover make our butt look big?"

The lambs weighed an average of 75-80 lbs and as can  you see by these pictures they are uniform and just..well...GORGEOUS! I feel like these weights would have been even better had the ewes not been pushed so hard that first 6 weeks.

I sent these pictures to Janet and i joked that all we did was add water.  Hamilton brothers and Janet McNally did all the work with their years of superior genetics.  We are very grateful to Richard Hamilton for allowing us to buy his ewe lambs and for sharing his knowledge with us. 

We are also grateful to Janet McNally for her 30 years of grass based gentics and the wisdom and advice she has generously shared with us over the past few years. Janet also delivered this rams to us, and walked us through how to read and and use Lambplan This allowed us to pick the best rams for our operation .

This is our fifth year on our new ranch and the learning "cliff" has been quite steep most of the time. Looking at these beautiful lambs grazing on the lush clover, makes it all seem worth the effort.