Continuing the celebration of our new Lambing Mitts pattern, here is our second lambing story. Jeff and Katya Rogers are the farmers that raise the sheep for our Snoqualmie Valley Wool. I really have enjoyed getting to know the Rogers better and am always impressed with their knowledge, care and work ethic. Jeff and Katya were kind enough to share their lambing story with us and I hope you enjoy it. I learn so much from their farming experience and am so lucky to have Jeff and Katya as a resource when I have questions about raising sheep. Thank you, Jeff and Katya.
Jeff and Katya Rogers
Aspen Hollow Sheep Station. Producer Snoqualmie Valley Lamb.
Lambing for us starts in mid April of each year. It is a busy 3 week period of 16 hour days for us as we sort out the ewes with day old lambs into an adjacent block of ewes with new lambs. Most of our lambs are born just after sunrise until about 9 am. We then have a small second wave during the midday when 10% of our ewes will have their lambs. That is usually over by 2 pm. Following that we also have a third wave of another 15% of our ewes who wait until late afternoon to go into labor. Very few of our ewes have their lambs under the cover of darkness.
Since we pasture lamb it is important for us to set the stocking density (number of sheep in each paddock) low.
Pasture is subdivided into paddocks with electric fence. This allows our ewes to go off and find a quiet spot to have their lambs. Once a ewe has lambed we move her and her lambs to a different paddock within 24 hours. This ensures that lambs that are 4 days or older don’t interfere with other ewes in labor.
The majority of unborn lamb growth takes place in the last 2 weeks prior to being born. At about 6 weeks prior the lamb is about the size of a orange. At 4 weeks prior to the end of gestation, the lambs are fully developed with most wool follicles present. During these last two weeks, the unborn lambs are increasing their weight by more than ½ lb. per day as they become fully developed. Considering our ewes often have triplets that weigh in excess of 9 lbs each, the nutritional and metabolic demands are high. Because of this we lamb later than most people so our ewes have a better chance of meeting those high metabolic demands placed on them at lambing time from what they can eat from pasture alone.
We have way too many memories during lambing to write about them all. Many are unique and prove to us just how hardy and adaptive our sheep are. Our ewes go 365 days a year on pasture and have been raised in the only USDA certified organic 100% grass-fed program in North America. It has taken many years to get the genetics to the point in which our ewes can with ease raise three lambs to market weights of 130 lbs on grass alone in a single grass growing season. While there is still work to do in the back office side of our business, the front office is thriving.
I would like to share one incident with you that took place in 2011. That was the winter in which the Seattle area only received 18 sunny days from October 18, 2010 through June 15, 2011. Which was a little too extreme. But in any case, ewe number 8822 decided that despite the wind blown cold rain coming down in buckets she was going to have her three 10 lb. girls at 3 p.m. Around noon she wandered off in the lambing paddock and staked out a nice patch of grass, clover, herbs and dandelions for herself and her soon to be new lambs. Her 5” long fleece drapped to her sides like a custom fit shaggy top coat, keeping her skin dry and body warm. After a few hours of picking some nice tasty forage she decided she was ready. Her water broke which is part of a chain reaction of hormonal changes that take place just prior to given birth. For all of the other ewes this gave them the signal that this spot was 8822’s and no one else was welcome to that spot within a 25 foot radius. Soon she got to work pushing out her lambs and cleaning them and feeding them. First there was one, then about 45 minutes later came number two, another 1 hour later, number three was born. At 6 p.m. I went to check on them and I found three well fed and dry ewe lambs tucked under her fleece. Making all those little cute little lamb sounds that content newborn lambs make. They were completely dry, warm and well feed.
That day we received 2” of cold wind blown rain. I had to change my foul weather gear three times.
At 150 days old, I weighed the lambs for the first time. They weighed 110 lbs each. Not bad for a mama that weighs only 165 lbs.
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