I hadn't realized the depth of some recent happenings until I started looking at numbers. The losses of Goliath and Marcia were bigger deals than I had thought (my brain isn't letting my heart process this right now, too much stress in my life). Marcia was the last of our original sheep, and Goliath was the last of our first farm dogs.
This means we are suddenly on Generation 2 of the farm. Previous to these losses (and they aren't really lost, we know where they are) I had been attempting to put together family trees of my sheep flock. Much to my surprise, with the loss of Angel, Betty and Juno last year, saying goodbye to Marcia at age 11 puts Sharon as our oldest ewe, and she's only 7! I'm not sure she realizes that she gets to be the Grand Dame now, hopefully she will take over the flock with the grace and seriousness of her mother, Shirley! She seems to have the seriousness, not sure about the grace yet.
We have been in rebuilding mode for a while, it takes some time. Our flock, on average, has their first lambs at 18 months of age. So when we lose a producing adult ewe, it takes a year and a half before her replacement has their first ewe. That is where we are now. We are finally starting to get a full flock of lambs being born. Ashoka and Alderaan had their first lambs this year. Mara had her second set. I am still waiting on Snowdrop, and I don't suspect Dandelion or Rose to have lambs anytime soon. I am making selections now from the ewes that have been born about which ones I would like to keep. The geneology trees and my ewe statistics help me decide.
Mara and Kurt Cobain digging for the green grass in the orchard
OK, grab a cup of tea, or turn off your computer and go outside. I'm digging into sheep data next...
This is my master chart for how I decide who to keep and who to cull. I know, you can't read it and none of the sheepy names mean anything to you. Anywhoo...The blue bars show the lambs that the mama already produced for us. The red shows the potential they have left to produce, based on their age. This takes into account the size of the lambs they give, the number of lambs they have at a time, and how often they lamb each year. It's hard to see the details - the green line is the ewe's age. This chart is in order by oldest to youngest, with the youngest either not having had lambs at all, or not having any lambs harvested yet, so I don't have any weight data on them. The straight yellow line - that is what Shirley produced for us in 11.55 years. She is the meter stick with which I judge all other ewes. If Marcia had gotten pregnant last year, she may have matched or even beaten Shirley. You can see that there are many that COULD easily outpace her. These bars will change as new data comes in, but I have high hopes for some of those younger ewes.
I also have a LOT of Shirley in my flock.
Out of the 22 ewes we currently have, 5 of them are related to Shirley. Sharon and Persephone are AMAZING producers, and may very well beat Shirley. I already have 2 from Persephone, though Rose is just a baby. Applejack also shows real promise, and so does Mara. This tells me I really do need to keep a ewe lamb from Sharon and Mara as well, to keep these good genes flowing. I can't believe Sharon is 7 and I don't have any of her ewes! We did have Millenium Falcon, but she was over 2 years old and had never gotten pregnant, so she is now gone. Since Falcon was born, she has only had boys! So I'll be keeping a close eye on her. Mara has only had boys as well.
We just said goodbye to Marcia. She hadn't had lambs in well over a year. I kept Hattie and Skadi in the same year, different moms, but all related to Marcia. Hattie is a complete sweetheart. I took her on a parade float! I love her to death, but she is one of my worst producers. She's still here because I think she is great. Skadi is another good producer and again, I should keep a ewe lamb from her, to keep Marcia's good genetics around.
This is where I am falling behind. Laverne was the other original ewe we had on the farm. We didn't have her long enough to see if she would produce as well as Shirley, but she was on her way there. She rarely had girls, so I kept Betty, and am sure glad I did. We lost Laverne not too long after that. Betty, also was a GREAT producer, but also liked to have boys. I finally kept Leia just 2 years ago, and she is showing promise. She just had twins, and I am keeping one of her girls, she's an interesting brown color. I am hoping to build the Laverne/Betty genetics back into the flock a bit too, but this is not as robust as my Shirley lines. We'll keep at it. As we are trying to grow the flock, it is really important that I keep my best performers. Again, losing Betty too soon was a terrible loss to flock production. Juno was a decent mama, Angel was not, but I really liked her personality. But trying to rebuild from what we lost is going to be tough, but I feel like we are on the right track.