Saturday, February 26, 2011

Selecting Sheep

Before we bought sheep, we bought books on sheep rearing. The chapters on lambing gave me pause. In them were illustrations of everything that could go wrong. Those chapters, as well as tales from farmers about living in the barns and assisting ewes made me wonder if I was up to sheep-rearing. Then I talked with Katahdin owners, and they said they rarely assisted at lambing. That's been my experience too. In my years of sheep rearing, I've had one breach birth and one where twins were coming at the same time. Normal lambing is for me to go to the barn or pasture and notice newborn lambs tagging after their moms. Humans can select their ewes for good mothering instincts. If a ewe births with no incidence and feeds her lambs, she's a keeper. If she rejects her lambs or has difficulty with birthing, she's not -- even if she has the most beautiful lambs in the flock. The 10-month-old ewe lamb that launched herself into the air and head-butted me is a keeper. She is out of a ewe lamb that birthed in the pasture and raised two healthy ewe lambs. She's wild as can be, but my bet is that she's going to be a good mother.

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