For those of you a bit confused by the title, no, it’s not the beginning of lambing here at Peeper Hollow Farm! Not yet, anyway. But our breeding groups have been together for more than four weeks, now — well past the halfway point of our six-week breeding season — so we can now see what the beginning of lambing might very well look like. Since a ewe’s heat cycle can range from a short 14 days to about 21 days (average: 17 days), all of the ewes have cycled at least once while in the presence of one of our breeding rams.
Those rams wear marking crayons, which are changed about once a week, so those ewes who were bred during the yellow week were either settled by the ram at that time or were re-marked recently. In fact, some of the girls first marked in orange have now also been remarked. That means that I am starting to get a pretty good picture of the first week or two of lambing. Those whose first marks have not been covered more recently have settled. And those who have been remarked are no longer due on the earlier date calculated by the first marking; they now have a later due date based on their second marking.
As a result, I know that the first ewe due in 2017 (on February 15th) is our colored Romeldale yearling Odelia, who was bred by Nahe. This could still change if, for some reason, she loses this pregnancy and is marked again, but that is not very common at this stage. Based on that, there is a good chance that our first girl to deliver in 2017 will be Odelia. This starts our year off with a bang, since one of my Romeldale breeding goals this fall is to produce a dark moorit brown ram lamb for future breeding. Odelia carries two dark pattern genes and is also moorit. By putting her with Nahe, we know her lamb or lambs will be moorit brown like both parents (moorit bred to moorit always produces moorit, since it is a recessive color), and three of the four genes at play in this pairing are dark patterns. This means I have good odds of getting that ram lamb I’ve been waiting for!
The first Romney — Grace, bred by ObiWan — is due the next day, February 16th. Once again, because both sire and dam are colored, we know these lambs will be colored too. This year’s Romney focus is production of a nice number of long-fleeced, fast-growing colored lambs. ObiWan was a particularly fast-growing lamb in spite of the fact that he is dark in color (dark color seems to be linked to slower growth and smaller size in the Romney breed), so it seemed logical to give him a number of my colored ewes to see whether we might be able to get his nice size into some of next year’s colored lambs.
One day later, our moorit CVM ewe Nypsi is due — again bred by Nahe. Although she seems third in line when it comes to due dates, the actual deliver of lambs could come in any order, since the Romeldales can come +4 days from their due date, and the Romneys +2 days. As a result, Odelia will most likely deliver between Feb. 11-19, Grace between Feb. 14-18, and Nypsi between Feb. 13-21. Molly (dark colored Romeldale) is due on Feb. 21st, to deliver between Feb. 17-25. You can see that once you factor in the possible delivery range, pretty much every day after Valentine’s Day and before April Fool’s Day has the possibility of one or more ewes delivering.
Plotting each ewes’ possible range of delivery allows me to begin planning the six weeks of lambing. Although it’s a very busy time on the farm, life in the world does not stop, and appointments need to be scheduled. Having this lambing information now lets me know which days in early 2017 are least likely for ewes in labor. And that knowledge allows me to schedule my off-farm days when the ewes probably won’t need me to help usher in our newest flock members.
We have less than two weeks of breeding season left before the lambing schedule will be finalized — and we are now past the week of heaviest breeding/marking in our flock. Having said that, Koko — one of the earliest girls to be marked — was standing today for Noa to mark her again, this time in green. We are on the downhill slide, but breeding season isn’t over yet!