The update around here this week revolves around the start of sheep breeding season. Breeding season is a fun time full of hope. It feels kind of like planting season to me, we get the seeds in the ground and then dream and hope about what will come in the fall. In this case we put the sheep together and dream and hope about the lambs in the spring. This is our first ever season with more than one breeding ram, so we were able to discuss and plan which ewes would go with which ram.
Our proven breeding ram is Fergus. He is a BFL/Merino/CVM cross that has an amazing fleece. His is by far our favorite fleece of all the wool sheep we have ever owned. It is both long and soft.
Ewes to breed with Fergus this year:
Fiona is our matriarch and also a wool ewe. She is a CVM/Merino and has a soft fleece with tons of crimp. The one downfall of her fleece is that it tends to be a little bit shorter than we would like. She is also Fergus’ mother. We have bred them to each other twice now and they make AMAZING offspring with excellent conformation and beautiful fleece. You have to be careful with line breeding/inbreeding like this (mother/son, father/daughter, or half siblings) and you should never go closer than this genetically. The first year we tried it we were a bit anxious and figured if it didn’t go well we would just not do it again. But both times have produced great offspring. So we are going again for a third time.
Daisy is one of our young dairy ewes. She comes from lines with excellent dairy qualities and production. This will be her first breeding year, so she may or may not take. She is half-siblings with our dairy ram Remi, and since we are not very well educated on their lines we decided not to breed them because of the potential for problems from close line breeding/inbreeding like that. (I know, I know, the opposite of what I just said about Fiona above…but we know Fiona and Fergus’ lines and knew it had a high likelihood of going well). Also, she has the shortest fleece of all the dairy ewes and we think Fergus’ length of fleece could mix nicely with hers. We want to see if we can add in some good wool qualities without messing up the dairy qualities. Might work. Might not. Worth a try.
Maggie is another of the young dairy ewes. This will be her first breeding. She is twins with Blue (see below) so we thought it would be fun to try one of them with each ram to see what they produce. So Maggie will be going to Fergus. We also wanted Fergus to have more ewes than Remi since he is proven and thus a better bet for a successful breeding. She has one of the longest, softest fleece of the dairy flock, so we are interested to see how Fergus’ fleece goes with that, and whether we lose dairy qualities by crossing them. She comes from lines with excellent dairy qualities.
Remi is our young, unproven breeding ram. He is a dairy ram with a short, somewhat soft fleece. He comes from lines with good dairy qualities.
Ewes to breed with Remi this year:
As I said above, Blue is Maggie’s twin (although they don’t match in color). They have very similar longer fleece and amazing dairy qualities run in their lines. She is a young ewe, so she may or may not take this year. We wanted to have at least a couple full-bred dairy lambs born this year, so this will be one of those breedings.
Autumn is our adult dairy ewe. She has lambed once before and has good dairy qualities. Since we aren’t sure whether the young ewes will take or not, we wanted at least one full dairy breeding that we could count on. Since she is already proven she should take this year and that would also get Remi proven. If she doesn’t, that could show a problem with Remi, which would be good to know too. Also, she is the same color as Maggie, so we thought it would be nice to have one of those two go to each ram to mix it up.
So this week we separated out the breeding groups. Fergus and his gals are in the front pen, Remi and his are in the back pen. There has been a lot of chasing and fighting as they settle in with their new flocks. We are excited to see how this year goes and what quality of lambs each of these breedings produce.