This year’s lambing ended this past Saturday, and as part of the cleanup, I always compile statistics to give us a picture of the results. This year, for a variety of reasons (including cancer in one of our primary rams and two groups assigned to ram lambs who proved too immature to breed), we had a number of open Romneys. This left us with only 32 bred ewes: ten Romney and twenty-two Romeldale/CVM. The pregnant ewes ranged in age from just under one year old (Ossidy was 356 days old, Olympia was 359 days old, and Olive was 354 days old at the time of delivery) to nearly nine years old (Gabby and Grace). The average age of our bred ewes was 4.6 years.
Between Valentine’s Day and Easter, we delivered a total of 66 lambs, with 5 that ended in death. Of those, 3 died at birth, never drawing a breath (two from Gabby and one from Ivy) and 2 within the first twelve hours (one from Gabby and one from Ivy). Of the surviving 61 lambs, 31 were ewe lambs (23 Romeldale/CVM and 8 Romney) and 30 were ram lambs (21 Romeldale/CVM and 9 Romney). There were 6 singles among the Romeldales and four among the Romneys. We had 12 sets of Romeldale/CVM twins, 4 sets of triplets, and 1 set of quads. In the Romneys, we had 5 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets.
It seems that this year I’ve had a lot of conversations with other shepherds about birth weights. I always tell them that recently our average birth weight tends to fall right around 11.2 pounds — and this year was not much different. Although you can figure it several different ways, I always like to look at the breakdown by the number of lambs in each birth and by their sex. In the Romeldales, the 4 single ewe lambs averaged 12.8 lbs, and the 2 single ram lambs 10.7 lbs. The 11 twin ewe lambs averaged 10.7 lbs. and the 13 twin ram lambs 11.6 lbs. The 7 triplet ewe lambs averaged 10.6 lbs, and the 5 triplet ram lambs 10.0 lbs. We did have one set of quads, in which the ewe lambs averaged 9.8 lbs and the ram lamb weighed 10.6 lbs. The Romneys were very similar: the 2 single ewe lambs averaged 13.0 lbs, while the 2 single ram lambs averaged 11.8 lbs. The 4 twin ewe lambs averaged 10.6 lbs and the 6 twin ram lambs 12.4 lbs. The 2 triplet ewe lambs averaged 10.6 lbs and the triplet ram lamb weighed 10.5 lbs.
The average Romeldale/CVM ewe lamb weighed 10.9 lbs and the average Romeldale/CVM ram lamb weighed 11.1 lbs, for an average lamb weight in this breed of 11.0 lbs. The average Romney ewe lamb weighed 11.2 lbs and the average Romney ram lamb weighed 12.0 lbs, for an average lamb weight in this breed of 11.6 lbs. When you crunch the numbers for this year, our average birth weight for our lambs overall came in at 11.2 lbs — just exactly our multi-year estimate!
There were some surprises. The Romeldales threw us very few moorit brown lambs this year, even though almost every pairing that we made had the chance of producing this color. We will work on producing more of these lambs for next spring to make up for this year’s deficit. We also discovered a couple of very dark genes in the Romeldale breed that we will be working to better define in the coming years. Although we didn’t expect much from our Romneys this year after the near-disastrous breeding season, we’ve gotten some very nice lambs that may very well be joining our flock or be sold as breeders. Hannah’s son, Peter, is a particular surprise that you will hear more about in a coming blog.
For now, I’m just happy to be putting our sheep back together into fewer groups, which results in less management. The lambs are happy, bouncing, and growing — and I couldn’t ask for more!