How big or how old to breed?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by Sarah J, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    I have Suffolk and SuffolkX ewes. One is fiveish years old and has been bred several times...not concerned about her. :rolleyes:

    But how old should the lambs be before I breed them? I have one ewe who was born in January and is nearing 100 lbs. Another born in late March or early April (though I'd lean toward late March given her size when I got her) and is about 65 - 70 pounds now. The fourth is too small and I already know that. She was born in Mid May and is only around 35 pounds...

    Soooo...the older ewe should be ready this fall, right? (I'm looking at breeding in November). The March lamb, though - will she be ready by then, do you think? Or is she still too young? I know about goats - they are supposed to be about 80 pounds and roughly 7 - 8 months old - but not sure about the sheep...

    Help? I'd hate to breed too early, but also don't want to wait and miss a good breeding season that I could have used and didn't know it...

    -Sarah
     
  2. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Suffolks tend to be a little slower maturing, so aim a little higher say 90 pounds and 9 months? Don't feed a super high protein (over 16%) ration to get her there she'll add fat and tissue where she shouldn't have it as a breeding animal.
     

  3. FairviewFarm

    FairviewFarm Well-Known Member

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    I once heard a rule of thumb that ewe lambs should weigh 3/4 of their expected adult body weight before breeding. But I didn't want to write that without verifying the guideline. So off to my shepherding books I went. The Sheep Production Handbook by the American Sheep Industry Association recommends that ewe lambs be a minimum of 6 months old and weigh 2/3 of their adult body weight. They also listed Suffolks as weighing 170-250 lbs. So accordingly, the ewe lambs should weigh at least 113 pounds at the time of breeding.

    A friend who is both a veterinarian and shepherd to a flock of ~40 said that he recommends that ewe lambs are bred so that they lamb at 14 to 15 months of age to give them added time to mature physically.
     
  4. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Well there ya go the Western Canadian Sheep Production manual agrees with that and adds they should be CS 3.5 too. None of my suffolks weigh over 175 pounds, although I haven't got the greatest bloodlines either. Soon I won't have but 2 suffolks anyhow! Red 7 and Red 17, both twin reliably both accept twined on lambs should something happen to their own. PS Red 7 was a terrible mum to start and the added work has made her a very reliable ewe.