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Saxon Merino Ewes

Posted 11/24/2013 5:23pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The breeding groups will disband on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. It's all over but the tiny baaing of their newborn lambs in 5 month's time. The rams will go back with their fellows and the ewes will gestate as a group winter-grazing a 20 acre hay field for a month or two. The rams and the ewes have been together for two 18 day ovulation cycles but most of the breeding happened early on in the first cycle.

Before breeding we quartered the ewes next to the rams, separated by two electric net fences, to get them yearning and yearn they did. The double fencing, each fence was about 40" apart from the other, discouraged jumping as the sheep knew that if they jumped the first (only 34" high) they would land on the second. They stayed put exchanging longing looks over the fences but what a party they had when together; I blush like Saint Valentine to think of it.

Posted 10/17/2013 6:47pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Pre-breeding is a busy time on the farm. We trim all the ram's and ewe's feet which takes 2 people 2 days; then on following days we marshall the sheep with Poem, a Kelpie herding dog, through a chute with 14 feet of a 5 inch deep footbath trough filled with wet wool (to keep the sheep from splashing as they dash along) and an antiseptic solution.

Depending on the availability of help, and after we've determined where the breeding groups will go we fence the areas with Electronet, put out water tubs with automatic fill valves and minerals feeders which have in them a mix of salt, calcium and trace minerals, adjusted to the forage that the sheep eat. Depending on the weather, i.e. the rainfall, the temperature (meaning the growth of the grass) over the next several weeks we will alter the mineral composition, when the sheep have eaten the grass available as it stops growing, and are eating a different forage, i.e. round bales of hay and whole oats (to supplement the protein required for a gestating ewe raising healthy lambs). The seasons are more predictable than the daily forecasts hence this will happen about half way through the 36 day breeding period (two 18 day ovulation cycles).

But first we must determine who gets bred by whom. All the ewes on the property are purebred Saxon Merinos. This week, in the chute, I selected the best wooled Saxon Merino ewes to breed to selected purebred Saxon Merino rams of the finest wool quality. We record the ewe eartag numbers and spray mark their heads with a scourable maker. On Tuesday the 23rd we will sort the spray marked Saxon Merino ewes at a head gate and put in the Saxon Merino rams. Breeding begins. The Saxon Merino ewes not selected will be bred to Corriedale rams; their vigorous, large and fast growing offspring will be for lamb.

We keep track of the eartags at shearing so the purebred Saxons and their wool are kept together for the fine yarn I will spin and to separate the coarser, crossbred wool that will be sold to another yarn maker.