Looking Back at 2020
Lets be honest, 2020 was a challenging year overall. This time of year we typically take some time to look at the previous year in terms of the farming operation. This helps us to evaluate changes we implemented to see if they are paying off.
To be honest and at the risk of sounding like we are bragging, 2020 was a good year for our sheep!
Lamb survival up to 120 days improved from 87.7% in 2019 to 91.7% in 2020. Most of our lamb losses typically happen within the first 3 to 5 days so we made some management changes to try and address this issue. We usually lose triplet lambs, still in the jug and on necropsy they died of septicemia with lung involvement. We do weigh all our lambs a few hours after birth and again the next day before tagging and all lambs in a litter need to have gained weight before we let the family out of the jugs. We made two changes for 2020 lambing, 1) We vaccinated the ewes for pneumonia before lambing so that the lambs can have a level of resistance and 2) lambs that did not gain weight were treated with Bovi-Sera as they most likely did not receive enough colostrum.
This year we lost very few lambs while still in the barn, except for lambs that were born dead (12 lambs), lambs that die during birth are included in our loss statistics. The rest of the lambs were lost after weaning, most due to pneumonia. We did not vaccinate the lambs for pneumonia in 2020 and plan to do so in 2021 to see it that will decrease our losses even more.
The lb. of lamb produced at weaning per lb. of ewe improved from 0.89 lb. in 2019 to 0.96 lb. in 2020. We weigh each ewe at the start of breeding and use that as her reference weight, this is the weight of ewe we need to feed for the whole year. So the more lb. of a lamb a ewe can produce produce per lb. of body weight the better. We look at this metric to make sure that if a ewe has a higher body weight, at least she produces better to offset her increased maintenance cost.
The total lb. of lamb we weaned improved from 16,749 lb. in 2019 to 17,182 lb. in 2020. This is a combination of survival improvement, efficiency improvement as well as environmental differences. We were able to do this even with a decrease in overall lambing rate from 200% in 2019 to 185% in 2020 (we lambed 26 ewe lambs in 2020 and prefer that they have singles).
Looking forward to 2021! We increased our ewe flock size to breed 175 ewes and ewe lambs, this includes 67 ewe lambs. Should make for a very interesting lambing season.