Friday, July 06, 2007

weaning, shots and breeding

I'll bet that got your attention.

I have to give you some food-for-thought, since the lists have been dumb lately....and that could be both meanings of the word.

Yes, I have even seen one charming breeder trying to start a conversation about sheep. No one answered. I've been there, I tried one year to start a list to get folks to sell sheep and wool together....ha ha...that flopped real fast. I used to try to keep the spotted list going by starting posts about certain types of spots....until one post where I said how dumb....that word again....another list was to be discussing....endlessly....whatever minutia they had jumped on at that time. I got wholloped good. Seems the absense of our leader on that list allowed hitting below the belt. So now I just let them all stew in their own juices.

I tried posting on the markings list about a month one was interested in discussing spots there either. Not my fault.

Why mention the lack of intelligible banter? Because new shepherds get their information off these lists. We can assume no one is having terrible sheep health problems.....because everyone does jump in to help there. Thankfully.

So have you weaned any lambs yet? I weaned a few early this year. They didn't seem to drop dead from the experience. What's early? Well, I got my first three lambs at 9 weeks old. They baaed so long we almost sent them back. I would prefer to keep lambs until they are three months old, then sell them. Well, I do like lambs! At least by three months, they have learned where and what to eat by following their moms. When I was in Wisconsin, I would wean ram lambs all at the same time. It kept the noise to one week. I would start weaning at three months and move back to 8 weeks. Yes! Eight weeks, lambs aren't able to convert hay into energy until about a month by 8 weeks....most mommy sheep would rather not have twin ram lambs lift her off the ground trying to bang-the-bag. At that time I also weaned the sold lambs about a week before they were being picked up. It kept their new shepherds from having the noise I started with, when I bought my first sheep. I also weaned ewe lambs. I don't do that any more. The conbination of stress and heat in Wisconsin caused a drop in lambs health. Some would get poopy butt from laying around mope-ing...then they would get fly strike.....some would get fly strike just from having damp wool....Fly strike is nasty. You need to find it and treat it fast. Those maggots can eat right into the flesh. You can work with hydrogen peroxide...maybe cutting off some wool too....and when you think you have eliminated them, get a product that will keep them from hitting the sheep again. I used Boss....something for cattle...and used it just like a flea treatment on a dog....1 cc on the back skin. It took care of anything I didn't find.

So to wean or not is the shepherd's choice. Depends on your set-up. You do have to get ram lambs away from unbred yearling ewes or other breed ewes earlier than fall. Those shetlands are mostly little studs. I have a few who have adopted a certain ewe by now. Those ram lambs follow and eat next to their "ewes" always trying for that one big chance to breed.

Shots.....if you need more than CDT already know it. So I'll discuss present vet says why use a shot, if you don't have a problem?....Frankly, I've never seen a problem with over-eating disease in Shetlands. How fortunate. I have had a stray lamb fall over sick between a month and two months....and had vets say give those shots...just in case. That will motivate a shepherd real fast. Most breeders will give a booster shot of CDT to their moms a month before lambing. That is supposed to give the lambs protection. Then some breeders give several shots to their lambs until some age....Obviously, I don't do that. I skipped CDT shots for the ewes this year. ARGH!!!! Naughty!

It's OK, I did it for a reason. Last year I lost a pg ewe to a puncture. I had them in the barn, and moved them all thru a chute process a couple of times. It was too much handling for one ewe....who must have gotten bumped. So this year, I let it pass....I am giving two CDT shots to my keeper lambs and sold lambs....I gave one shot to all of them, but some of those boys are getting big enough that I might start shipping early.

I should also mention wethers. I don't have any. Lot's of breeders wether. It is a way to try and save the life of their baby ram lambs. We all know you can't sell many ram lambs for breeding rams. So now, they think they can find a home for those extra ram lambs by wethering and selling them cheap to "fiber homes". OK fine....maybe you live in an area where there are fiber homes. But think about takes just as much effort and money to keep a wether, as a breeding animal. So I sure don't want any wethers at my place. I once had a vet come in and wether seven....count ram lambs. It did seem that female vets liked the process much more than male vets. But by the time I offered 7 little boys up to the process, I was cured.

I decided that my boys would rather live their life out as a matter how short. So I don't do it any more. We have all heard of the disasters caused by an improperly banded wether beeding averything he could reach. So I wouldn't have a "banded" wether on my place.

My opinion.

I suppose that brings me to breeding. Who gets who and when?????

We all make mental breeding lists as the lambs hit the ground in the spring. OOHHHH! She or he is ssooooo cute....I'll keep that one and breed it to that one.....and on and on.

Before you start shipping those ram lambs you can evaluate a couple for your own breeding groups. Yes, it's a bother having lots of breeding pens....but ram lambs can breed you could use one breeding pen twice. If you breed any ewe lambs, you should consider a ram lamb for your stud. Don't put your little girls in with a full grown ram.....they could get hurt.

Breeding thoughts can take a lot of maybe I'll contunue another day.


At 4:10 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

Hi M.E.-Interesting comments about the wether business-I did band 3 wethers at an early age this year as they were sold as fiber pets. Each year we have so many ram lambs that I'm beginning to think there's something in the water around here. Do I wether them all? No way. Will I keep them on as breeders? No way. Sure, there are always a few suitable for breeding, but I do not seek buyers for rams, that's another story, though I admire those who have luck with that. How many more gray or black breeding rams does the world need? I ship them in August or September every year & they only dock me a minimal amount for intact rams. This will be the first year I've kept some ram lambs since I finally got some colorful keepers. I'll keep them in my pen of rams and re-evaluate in the winter or spring. Thanks for the interesting and though-provoking post! Give up on those yahoo lists, don't they drive you crazy?

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Alaska Shetland Shepherd said...

Hey lovely lady! All is well in the far north. I enjoyed your blog tonight, nice reading, good thoughts. I have a few wethers every year, they are banded and go off with a ewe lamb as pets in pairs. We enjoy banding...that means, if I watch carefully, I will have THE best show ring bait anyone could wish for.... nice, very dry, very hard, tiny round balls of wool! What a funny thing, but the dogs think they are so much like their sheep at home, they light up and sparkle when they get to play with one. In fact, they are SO special that I had a friend borrow one for her Top Ten Siberian female who was being campaigned in the 'lower-48' - no kidding! And yes I got it back! Have you ever tried searching a field or paddock for dropped sheep balls?? HAHAHAHAHA! Now THAT'S a thought for your day - very big grin!

Oh, another thought too...there is an old saying that an eager ram produces more ewe lambs. He must be very hot to trot, so to speak, to breed his ewes as quickly as possible, as soon as they come into season. The trick is to have him think the ram next door will get to his ewes...when they refer to realestate as location location location, they could also be talking about rams during the breeding season!

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Gail V said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Gail V said...

Oh, Busted! I removed said former post because I could see no way to edit when I misspelled SHETLAND!
So here it is, again:
Hi Bo,
I love your posts, that sage shetland keeping advice. I have used some--some haunts me when I don't. I appreciate you publishing what you know.
Too bad folks didn't keep up the shetland markings list, but maybe it's just winter material. I learned a new word-- BERSUGGET! and half-learned another-- Bielset? Bleset? Blettet? See, only half-learned.
Thanks, anyway. Nice to read your comments and years of experience.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Becky Utecht said...

I don't normally wether ram lambs either. But I do keep a wether here, he's three years old now. Fabulous fleece and he comes in very handy as a companion for any sheep who needs separating from the flock. He lives with my BFL ram now.
I wonder if alaska shetland shepherd is onto something there about the ewe/ram ratio. We had very tight quarters and lots of rams here last fall during breeding season, it was awful trying to keep things under control. But we did get a lot more ewe lambs this spring. :-)


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