Our lambs are currently getting the last of the creep feed once daily. When it’s gone, it’s gone, but for the time being, it is my daily lamb chore. I was out in the barn feeding them this morning, when I noticed that many of them needed bigger coats. I can usually change lamb coats on my own — the lambs are still small enough that I can hold them with one hand and slip the coat off the back legs with the other — so I grabbed a pile of newly mended coats and went to work. At first I thought I would only be changing a couple, but by the time I was done, I had changed coats on over a dozen lambs. I was really surprised!
Even more interesting is the fact that many of our biggest lambs are already as big as some of our smaller adults! And of course I questioned why. Although I track growth rates in our lamb flock, it is very difficult to compare the growth of a lamb born in one year with the growth of a lamb born in a prior year. I’m finding that the only really accurate comparison I can do is between two lambs born in the same year or between the average growth rate of two different years. I’m not exactly sure why this is, except that their growth seems to be somewhat dependent on birth date (month and day — in any given year, those born before March 7 tend to gain much better than those born after). Growth is also dependent on weather and grazing. This makes sense because better grazing means more feed for the lambs, and milder weather means that lambs are more willing to stand out in the field and eat rather than hide in the shade where it is cool. In a hot drought year, we see much poorer gains than in a cooler, wetter year — like this one. Trying to gauge the gains of lambs growing up in one year to the growth of lambs in a year with different weather doesn’t give much usable information.
I find that coat size is a pretty good measure of growth. And when I find myself changing a lot of coats over and over, I know the lambs are having a good growth year. We coat our lambs every year, and honestly, I have never had so many lambs in such big coat sizes so early in the year! In fact, I currently have about eight lambs in our smallest adult size (Matilda 36D or Rocky 33), something we’ve never experienced before September — and it’s only June now! Granted, most of these are ram lambs, who tend to have the fastest growth rates. I do, however, have two Romney ewe lambs in the same size coat — most likely because their wool is filling up such a big coat, even though the ewe lambs themselves are not so very big.
In any case, our lambs are growing like weeds this year, unlike anything we have seen before. I know the weather has been good and the grazing lush, but we’ve had years like that before and did not see this type of growth. I suspect that it is more than that; I suspect it also has to do with the selections we make each year in favor of faster maturing replacement/breeding lambs. In addition to that, we changed the lambs’ creep feed this year to a higher quality blend that is mixed specifically to our specifications. I am now wondering whether that may also have factored into the growth we are seeing. It’s an interesting thought — one I will need to keep in the back of my mind as next year’s lambs arrive. I wonder whether we will see this type of growth again next year. I guess only time will tell!
Skirting update: I have finished skirting the ram fleeces and will be posting them in an email to our customer list on Thursday, June 11, between 4 and 5 p.m., CDT. They are all really quite beautiful, and I can’t wait to share the details!