PM Ranch Sheep
“Sheep Life” on PM Ranch, Montevideo, Minnesota
This page describes the life of the sheep and the Padula Ranch Family on PM Ranch in Montevideo, Minnesota. Almost all of the narrative below appears just as Bob Padula sent it to me. As an Advisor, Bob is available to speak with the public about WeatherWool and about wool in general. Bob is an international wool consultant and a lifelong sheep man. Debby and Ralph had a wonderful afternoon at Bob's place way back in 2011, when we were still developing our Fabric.
This newborn is getting some special care!
15 March 2017: Lambing Time!
Lambing Season has just begun. About 12 ewes have lambed, with another 60 due before long. Lambing can be quite difficult for the ewe, and they frequently need people's help. Bob is actively involved in the lambing, and this time of year is probably the most physically taxing time of year for him as a rancher who also holds a full-time job in town.
19 March 2017:
Bob sent me some pictures of a pair of lambs that were JUST born ... and being born ...
A lamb should be born front-feet first, then the head. In this case,
the head came out first. Padula had to get very involved and reposition the lamb for normal birth.
Padula tells me the lambs will cajole the ewe into standing, so they can nurse.
Attention naturally focuses on the newborns, but of course the ewe has just given birth. And the lambs are relatively large for her ... and there are two of them!
These lambs are still less than one hour old.
Born healthy and strong and getting stronger by the minute
nursing on the ewe's rich milk.
The ewe has also had only a short time to rest from delivery but
is already standing so her young ones can nurse.
Padula sent the next set of updates on 31 March 2017.
Each ewe and her lambs are penned individually in a pen about 4x5 feet so that a maternal bond can be established. Ewes and lambs are kept in these pens for a day or two, then they are moved with similar aged lambs to a “mixing pen” so the lambs do not get separated or abandoned by their mothers.
After a few more days, the ewes and lambs are commingled with the other ewes and lambs. If the lambs do not look like they are doing well, we keep them in the small mixing pen for observation.
Sometimes the ewes do not have enough milk and we have to “bottle feed” the lambs. We try not to do this because the milk replacer is expensive and it is time consuming. For efficiency, we mix up larger batches and put it in a bucket with nipples on it so the lambs can drink any time of the day.
Elastrator and rings
After weighing, we use an rubber ring to dock the tail of the lambs.
Tail with band.
The rubber ring constricts the blood flow to the tail and it dries up
and falls off in about 2 to 3 weeks.
Older lambs with tails
Padula does whatever needs doing.
Below, another glamorous part of being a Sheep Rancher and Breeder.Cleanup starts with an empty cart ...
Padula does some dirty work ... Below, the dirty work ...
After the ewes are moved from the lambing pens to the mixing pen, the pens are cleaned, lime is put down to dry the area and then new bedding added before the next ones come in.
2017-03-31 Tools of the trade
Record keeping is very important. We keep lots of records.
This process starts in the fall, when I sit down, look at records and determine which rams to mate to which ewes. Then I develop a chart with all the ewes that will be lambing listed by sire group and record the lambs when they are born. I have to look at the chart to determine the ram and ewe – and then record in my small pocket flock record book the individual animal ID for each lamb based on the sire and dam of the lamb. I keep this pocket record book with me so then if I find a lamb that is not doing well, I can look up who the dam is and see why there is a problem. Sometimes I have to re-pen the ewe with her lambs back into the mixing pen.
Ear tags have number on them that refer to the year and specific sires. For instance 17039 and 17040. In my flock, the first 2 digits “17” correspond to 2017 and the next digit corresponds to an specific ram – in this case 0 is for sire 0523 a Targhee ram we called “Lionel”. Other rams are identified with a 3,4 or 5. The last 2 digits correspond to the individual lamb ID in consecutive order. So 17039 would be the 39th lamb born to sire number 0523 in 2017. While a lamb with number 17415 – would be the 15th lamb born to a different sire – because of the “4”.
The ewe ID, sire ID, date of birth, sex and weight of the lamb is recorded for each lamb.
In the evenings when I get done cleaning pens, I enter the data into spreadsheets on the computer. Some of the spread sheets are periodically sent to a processing center in Australia to have the data entered into a database where the data is combined with other people's flock data and comparisons are made to determine which sheep have the best genetics for different traits. (more on that later).
The umbilical cord is the subject of the next photos.
2017-03-31 umbilical cord 1
2017-03-31 umbilical cord 2
The umbilical cord is severed at birth naturally. To prevent infections, we cut the umbilical cord about 1 inch away from the body and dip it in an antiseptic solution. If we didn't do that, bacteria could enter the body of the lamb through the umbilical cord or navel area and cause an infection.
A note about ear tags – while it may seem painful,
it would be similar to getting your ear pierced.
Each lamb is weighed at birth and the birth weight is recorded. That helps me determine how my feeding program was during pregnancy and if I need to make changes. If the sheep are too small, survival can be a problem. If the lambs are too big, there can be problems with difficult births. Singles typically weigh more than twins and triplets. They also gain better because there is more milk for the one lamb, versus having to share the milk.
We will weigh lambs at 60 days to see how much the lambs gained between birth and 60 days which is an indicator of the milking ability of the mother. Singles weigh more than twins – 50 to 60 lbs versus 40 to 50 lbs. But two smaller lambs is generally more profitable than a larger single. 2 @ 40 lbs is 80 lbs of lamb per ewe, compared to a 60 lb single. AND, if you consider that the single may have weighed more at birth – 13 lbs vs 10 lbs. 60 lbs – 13 at birth is 47 lbs of lamb raised to 60 days, compared to 80 lbs – 20 at birth which is 60 lbs of lamb raised.
I develop a feeding regime for the sheep to help the ewes milk adequately so the lambs grow. This requires keeping track of how much each sheep is fed. Feed is measured out and fed according to what the animals nutrient needs. I balance the rations to make sure the sheep get the protein, energy, minerals and vitamins they need and change it depending on what I am feeding.
Early growth is important for the lambs because if they do not get off to a good start, they tend to lag behind for the rest of their lives. However, over-feeding is not profitable and can cause health problems for the sheep also.
There is a lot of math and science involved. Often times the sheep do just fine by themselves, but we do need to supplement them at critical times to make sure we are taking care of the sheep. Late gestation (pregnancy) is when most of the fetal growth takes place and lactation is important for lamb growth. If we “stunt” the lamb's growth early on in life, it never reaches is potential for wool production.
Most recent update 20 August 2017