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  • Kristin Ramey

Sheepy Data

I love my sheepies. Almost as much as I love sheepies, I love SPREADSHEETS.

I have 15 years of data about my sheep flock. Which moms are the best, who gives me triplets, twins and singles. How big my sheep will get based on their age and if they are male, female; triplet, twin or single; bottle fed or not. I use this data to plan their butcher dates, to plan with ewe lambs get to stay to be new breeders, and which ewes are ready to go afield.

All this data helps me manage my flock. One of the data points I recently put together was WHO makes up my flock? My original ladies are all gone. For a variety of reasons, that first year when we bought Laverne and Shirley; Carol, Alice, Jan, Marcia and Cindy; Pretty Princess Penelope, Lucy, Ethel Gertude, Daphne and Velma - They have all since passed. Some after a long life of producing on the farm, some because of illness, injury or mishap along the way. Shirley birthed us 18 lambs! Carol passed before she ever got pregnant.

Over the years, Shirley has stood out as the matriarch of the entire flock. 18 lambs born on the farm, and I still have 1 of her daughters, 3 granddaughters and 2 great-granddaughters of hers on the farm! WOWEE!

So I decided to do some math and see what percentage of my flock genetics are from Shirley. To determine that, I needed to look at the path of the papas, too. I assumed we had a lot of Shirley in our flock, to the point I was actually concerned it was too much!

Boy was I wrong.

First, the largest percentage of flock genetics STILL comes from outside sources. I have many ewes that I did buy off the farm - Meg, Ash and Freckles came from a friend. Onyx and Elsa were recent purchases. Toilet Sparkle came from a neighbor. That's as many ewes on the farm from external sources than came from Shirley.

The other piece of the pie is the father side. Many of my rams were born on the farm. Sometimes we bring them in from the outside, so more external parentage there.

39% of my flock genetics are externa. I still figured Shirley was the next biggest. But by chance, and not by design - my ewe Jan actually has a higher percentage of flock genetics than Shirley. WHAT? I only have 3 ewes on the farm that can claim a family tree with Jan. But in the research, I discovered that of these ewes, 6 of them can claim their father came from Jan's family tree!! Only 1 ewe can claim their father came from Shirley's family tree.

That gives Jan the 20% flock percentage edge over Shirley's 15%

Now, Shirley may well take the cake in the future. Again, we have 6 ewes still on the farm that are related to Shirley. So many more options for rams to be flock papas for future ewes, as well as more ewes to stick around from Shirley's offspring.

The best producing ewe on the farm is Shirley's daughter, Persephone. Whereas Shirley produced 18 lambs in 11.5 years, Persephone has produced 23 lambs in 8 years, and we are hoping to keep her to 11 years as well. She's a solid mama. She just gave us another batch of triplets.

I wanted to make sure I wasn't inevitably creating an in-breeding situation from having too many of Shirley's offspring on the farm. So far, looks good. I bring in enough outside genetics to keep things fresh. The only downside to all my spreadsheeting is that I have successfully selected the best group of ewes. It's getting harder and harder to find ones that underperform that are ready to leave the farm. I always have a running list of who I want to keep ewes back from, so I am always eager to add more. But the 20-25 ewe size seems to be the limit for our pasture. We've had 46 lambs born this year, so far, with more pregnant mamas to give us lambs this fall. I like to keep 1 or 2 back each year, to keep the flock young. My oldest is 8.5 years, so certainly not very old, so age isn't a factor this year. I've got one underperformer, but she hasn't been on the farm long enough to really judge. If she gives me a single again, she'll move on to freezer camp, and make way for another ewe lamb to get to stay on the farm!

Thanks for endulging me on my little spreadsheet journey.

Here's my flock percentage as a reference

And a picture of lambies for your time!

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