Why are wool lambs so delicate?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by stephen & leah, Feb 11, 2004.

  1. stephen & leah

    stephen & leah Well-Known Member

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    We have raised both wool and hair sheep for several years. So I have to wonder....why is it that the hair sheep lay down and most often lamb with relative ease, the babies jump up, nurse and are off and running. But wool sheep have to be watched, attended, and the lambs in a lot of cases are weak, have to be pampered and in many cases assisted. I wondered if maybe it was because we have "saved" too many ewe lambs that wouldn't have made it on their own, so now we have a genetic pool of problems. But if anyone has any ideas, I'd like to hear them. I'm not bashing the "woolies" - especially since I am wearing wool socks and my wife spins and knits, but I'd just like to figure this out. I can tell you that I culled all mothers who couldn't give birth AND raise unassisted in my previous flock, and that virtually ended my problems, but it took two years to do it and my numbers were smaller than when it started. I just can't see staying up all night for weeks to watch and assist the woolies, when the hair girls get the job done well all on their own.

    S
     
  2. doodles

    doodles Well-Known Member

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    I think that you'll find a hugh difference with Icelandics. I am very aware of the weak woolies and get so frustrated with lambs that are so weak that you have to tube or force feed them. Icelandics hit the ground running. They are actually pulling grass by the 2nd day.
     

  3. brosil

    brosil Well-Known Member Supporter

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    No problems with my Shetlands.
     
  4. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I think if you're having so much trouble with woolies you would have to start with a complete review of the managment practices beign used. This is a great time to call in a vet to help. You can keep the wrong ewes in any breed, culling makes the flock. Weak lambs would indicate a problem with the ration, we had an iodine deficency we didn't know about until a post mortem on dead new borns showed up the problem. The more specialized the breed the more particular their needs. You have to pick a breed that will do well in your environment and/or you have to know what extra they might need to work outside those conditions. A heavy wool breed will do fine in a hot climate, they've been bred to function there but drop it in the cold north west and you'll not get the same results without shelter. Sheep with more hair or all hair are less specialized so are likely more adabtable. Just remember there ar specialized breeds out there that will out perform others in some areas. I'd think my North County Cheviots would survive Manitoba's cold wet and bug infested heat better than my Rideau Arcotts, but the Rideaus will drop 5 times the milk. A Texel might very well produce more meat than any other breed but cost an amazing amount to buy into and might not be the most efficent feed converters. You have to match up your managment to your conditions to your sheep, sounds like the hair breeds will work best for you. Maybe we should have a hair breed as the March breed of the month? Which one?
     
  5. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    I love my little Romanovs, lambs hit the ground running.

    But...my shearer laughs at the hair/wool, local butcher laughs at the carcass as do the guys at Cookstown stockyards.
    Hopefully with the right cross I can get an acceptable carcass.
    Tried my Suffolk ram on a few Romanov ewes, will see how that works out.

    Still learning...
     
  6. Shahbazin

    Shahbazin Well-Known Member

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    I think with any breed of animal, selection for easy birthing & mothering traits often gets ignored when individual animals are especially valuable for resale, or when other traits are the primary selection criteria. Shetland sheep (which is what I raise) are easy lambers & great mothers, but historically, they lambed w/out assistance, & those who didn't, tended to cull themselves out of the gene pool. I am very keen to continue this trait, as I can't fool with them checking on them all night, & I work days; no matter how lovely the fleece, a ewe is a cull if she can't just pop out her lambs & raise them herself. I dip navels & tag ears, & that's it. They get vaccinated at 4-6 weeks & again 2 weeks later, with CDT, & are raised on hay & what grass is available.
     
  7. Mystic Meadows

    Mystic Meadows Member

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    I would also agree that I think in general it depends on the breed. I have never had any problems with my Shetlands or Jacobs lambs. Obviously, there can always be problems but as a general rule the lambs are up and bouncing around without any assistance and tend to be hardy little lambs.

    Jamie
     
  8. stephen & leah

    stephen & leah Well-Known Member

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    [ Maybe we should have a hair breed as the March breed of the month? Which one?[/QUOTE]

    We have found that Katahdins are the best for us. I like some dorpers as well, but the Katahdins have more of the "less work" traits that we find attractive.

    JMO,
    S