We are a small scale sheep producer, raising purebred production Dorsets. We have two lambing groups, one in April and the other in October. We are working on developing our maternal, a-seasonal characteristics with a goal of easy care 210% lambing proficiency. Only fall lambs from multiples are used as replacement ewes.
We are improving our genetics through artificial insemination (AI) from Great Garlandhayes Farm’s Blackdown flock in Devon, England. The ram, Blackdown Achilles 01164 is the 3rd in the British Dorset National Stock Ram listing. The Blackdown flock bred 4 of the top. 10 rams. We are experiencing a 75% success rate. This ram was chosen to improve our flock genetics with his high Maternal Index resulting in higher lambing percents; less lambing difficultly; higher number of lambs reared to weaning; moderately sized ewes with high output; and high weight gain in the first forty days due to milking.
In addition, we are currently using an AI ram out of Australian Gooramma 723-2015 and Kuhns Dorests Dam 5-312. Dorset genetics from Australia were imported for parasite resistance and carcass traits. Rams and replacement ewes are purchased from K Bar K Farm and Kuhns Dorsets.
Our flock is grass fed, managed by intensive grazing with high tensile woven wire serving as perimeter and solar powered electric fencing to subdivide for rotation. The pasture is being improved by lime and manure application and frost seeding. Careful soil testing avoids any over application of nitrogen, protecting water quality. For parasite management, the flock is rotated every two to three days. We purchase hay for winter forage which is funded through our agtourism events. A portable 500 gallon water tank on a wagon is the system used for watering.
Ewes are maintained 2.5-3 lbs of good hay per day when not on pasture. Ewes receive a supplementary grain mix during the last months of pregnancy, throughout lactation, and during flushing (pre-breeding) as needed. The amount of grain mix fed depends on forage quality, ewe condition, and number of lambs that are being raised. Ewes are scanned to determine the number of lambs. Lambs, at two weeks, have access to supplemental grain mixture in a creep feeding area. Claiming pens (lambing jugs) in our barn are used for a few days after birth to insure sufficient bonding before using grouping pens. Due to our coyote and black vulture problems in the CVNP, we do not practice pasture lambing.
The flock is consistent in heavy muscling, early maturity, easy keeping, low maintenance, feed efficient, and natural out of season lambing. National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) genetic and performance tracking is one of tools we use for reliable genetic evaluation to lift our productivity.