Winter warmth

Many Iowans are enjoying our unseasonably warm weather. Our highs, normally in the mid 30s, have been in the 60s for about a week; and the lows, usually in the teens, were in the 50s last night. I sit here at my computer in a T-shirt and jeans, what I was wearing when I did my chores today. It is honestly unbelievable — if someone had told me we would be seeing this weather in February, I would have told them they were crazy! We usually begin lambing in bone-numbing cold. I end up shivering until I’m sure I will never warm up. But not this year, when broken records for warm days abound!

I could bemoan the fact that the warm temps are not helping to kill the parasites in the fields, but I’m known as being a glass-half-full type of gal. As a result, I’m looking forward to monitoring our lambs’ growth this spring. Most years we find that our early-born lambs gain particularly well in comparison to those born in mid-March or later. My theory has always been that when they arrive in very cold temperatures, they learn very quickly that full bellies mean survival. Their mother’s milk is what keeps them warm and alive, and so they fill up constantly. Once the weather warms, I believe that those lambs continue to tank up often, having established a routine in their early weeks. Every year we’ve seen the early lambs out-gain the later-born by at least 0.25 pounds per day on average.

DOB 2/21/2017: Black-based Romeldale Hattie with sons Qapp (behind) and Qitt (forward), neither of whom are particularly interested in nonstop nursing in today’s heat!

I’ve always wanted to test my theory, and it turns out that this year the early-born lambs are coming during unseasonably warm weather. So far the early-born lambs are lounging around in the heat and not nursing constantly. I don’t see them at the teat nearly as often as I usually do when it is cold. Yet our temperatures are due to drop at the end of the week, and that will test my theory. If these early-born lambs still out-gain their later-born flock-mates — despite the fact that they haven’t established a routine that includes frequent nursing — then I might have to rethink the reason for the difference.

Although I’m looking forward to testing my theory, I’m not a big fan of this weather. The trees are budding and the grass in the fields is already greening up. We’ve made our way though the typical spring thaw and its mud — and the mud has even dried up pretty well, so that our three dogs are no longer bringing in enough to fill buckets with every trip outside. Yet I know this weather isn’t here to stay. It will get cold again, which means frozen fruit-tree buds and weaker grass regrowth when spring really does arrive, and a lot more mud in the weeks to come. I hate to be a downer when so many people are thrilled to be in T-shirts, but honestly, I miss my coveralls, scarf and hat! It’s just too early to be this warm!


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  • Jane M says:

    Since there was very cold weather earlier I was wondering how long it has to be cold to kill parasites. Or do they just start growing as soon as the weather turns warm?

    • Dee says:

      Actually, it’s a little bit of both… The warm spell could actually help, since the temps are warm enough that many of them will hatch out. Then if it gets cold enough, those would be killed off. We need a lot of very cold weather with little cover to kill them when they are still in the eggs – and even then, many will survive. If they hatch out, however, then they are killed much more easily.

  • Jane M says:

    Very helpful to my understanding…!

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