Lambs are dropped a lamb off at Arapahoe Meat Co. in Lafayette for custom processing for you. Lamb will be picked up by you at Arapahoe Meat Co and processing fees paid directly to Arapahoe. Lamb is typically done processing 5-7 days after we drop off the lamb, and Arapahoe appreciates meat being picked up withing 7 days of completion.
Our next batch of lambs are being processed on March 2, 2020.
Our sheep are a combination of Dorper and Katahdin. These breeds all do very well in climates that swing from warm and cold, and they thrive in our winters in Colorado. The Dorper is a South Africa breed bred for meat. Dorper and Katahdin are also special breeds called "hair sheep". They don't grow very good quality wool, they actually shed in the summer, much like a dog, so they don't require shearing. Which creates a little less work for us, which is beneficial.
We bring a ram in for breeding, and the sheep gestation period is 5 months. If exposed to a ram at the same time, most of the ewes will go into estrus at a similar time, and lambing starts about 5 months later. Their cycle lasts 14 days, so you can sometimes see a pattern of lambs being born in 2 week periods. We sometimes keep a ram lamb from our own flock for breeding, but every 2 years or so, we bring in an outsider for fresh genetics in our flock.
Dorpers are very calm, and good mothers. We don't generally have to intervene in lambing or nursing. We ensure that the mother has bonded with her lamb or lambs, and that nursing is successful, and that is typically all we need to do. If a ewe abandons her lamb, we will bottle feed, or attempt to latch the lamb to a different nursing ewe who will accept it. It's very rare that we have to bottle feed a lamb, but have done it once or twice over the years. If a ewe consistently abandons her babies, we will cull her, as sometimes lambs are born when we aren't home. If a ewe is not a good mother, her lambs can die, and we would prefer to keep a ewe that is an attentive and protective mother.
Growth and Feeding
Lambs stay with their mother ewes their entire lives on the farm. Our flock feeds from grasses in our pasture during the spring, summer and fall, and they are given grass and/or grass/alfalfa hay during the winter months. As a treat, they get spent brewers grains from City Star Brewery in Berthoud, our favorite brewery! We have a frost free waterer by the barn, so they have access to fresh water all day long. They have a barn for shade and shelter. In the warm summer months, they are allowed to sleep at night in or outside of the barn, and they are protected by our livestock guardian dogs. We have never lost a lamb or ewe to a predator. During the winter, they are closed into the barn at night for warmth and protection.
As a supplemental feed for our ewes, oats and molasses are given on their lambing day. Typically, the day a mama ewe gives birth, we isolate her in a barn stall alone with her lamb(s), so they can bond. And we give her a treat of oats and molasses to return energy into her body quickly after the time spent in labor. This accomplishes 2 things: it helps her have the energy to start nursing right away, and it also takes her attention for a few minutes so she will stand still and eat her oats, and we can watch to see if the lambs attach properly for nursing.
Medicines and Vaccines
Our lambs are vaccinated at 4 weeks, and again at 8 weeks for Tetanus, Clostridium and Caseous Lymphadenitis. They are not given any hormones or other medicines unless they are sick and need assistance. We have never had an instance of a sick lamb needing antibiotics or any other medicine. Our mother ewes are vaccinated annually with a booster as well. Again, mama's are given no other medicines, unless needed. We have had instances of abscesses in their jaw due to grass seeds getting stuck in their gums, that has required drainage and antibiotics. This has not happened to either a pregnant or nursing mom, and we do our best to limit medicines to required cases.
We typically process at Arapahoe Meat Company in Lafayette, who are animal welfare certified and ensure our lambs are treated with the utmost respect and care. Custom processing is available when reserving lamb in advance
A FEW LAMB STATISTICS
Our flock currently has a lamb rate of 1.51 lambs per ewe. Some of our ewes consistently have singles, some have twins, some mix it up year to year, and a few even give us triplets.
The average live weight of our lambs at slaughter is 90.69 pounds, average age is 7.14 months. We typically expect about 55-60% back in meat products.
Our largest lamb at processing was Nick, born in December 2010, to Velma, and processed at 144 pounds!
The average age of our ewe flock is 3.04 years. Shirley was the oldest at 11.55 years, and we try to keep one or two ewes from each lambing to ensure we keep the age of our flock low, and to allow for the oldest to take time off from lambing and rest.
We have had 298 lambs born on our farm since we started raising sheep, Shirley alone had given us 18 of those lambs!
We currently have 25 ewes that we keep in the farm for breeding.