An exciting time in the shepherds' calendar is putting the rams in with the ewes, and this is what we have just done! This is the start of lambing 2021, and the success of that begins right here and now.
You might think this is just a quick and random event, but not so. Weeks ago, the calendars have been pored over to decide on the "best" time to lamb next year. For each farmer, different factors affect what is their "best" date. One year we planned to lamb early and got stuck lambing right in the middle of Beast from the East!! We vowed never to lamb in February again!! The Rams have been checked and prepared, feet trimmed and wormed, their condition improving over the last few weeks after a move to a small paddock with good grass to give them the condition and energy for the few weeks ahead. The ewes too - they have been without their last lambs for a good couple of months now and had a chance to recover from feeding them. They have gained weight and condition, also been wormed and thoroughly checked over, and are ready. The cycle of grazing the fields has led up to this moment so that the ewes are on what is called a "rising plane of nutrition" to "flush" them. In other words, they go onto good grass with high energy lick buckets so their bodies release the eggs.
It is normal to put a harness on the rams to mark the ewes that have been covered, and all the rams together would normally have the same colour which would change after a couple of weeks so you know which ewes will lamb first and which will lamb later. This year we hope to be lambing in a tight 3-week window so I have done something unusual and very different with my coloured markers. We have some very good lambs and some really rather poor ones, and I want to know which ram is producing which. So ... each ram has a different coloured wax and we should be able to assess who is covering which ewe, and thus which lambs are from which ram. I know I know .... some ewes do the rounds and get themselves covered by all 3 rams and will end up with a rainbow of colour on them, but I am hoping that enough will have just a single colour that I can make a valid judgement on the quality of the progeny from my rams. It's worth a try anyway!
We will scan the ewes at around 95 days from now which will give us the first indication of what to expect next lambing, and give us a chance to add any necessary feeding rations aimed at those ewes expecting multiple lambs.
Gestation for sheep is around 147 days, give or take a couple of days. So the clock is now ticking and the calendar blocked out for lambing time.