One of the first things you must consider when managing a sheep farm is when to have your lambing season. You must decide weather to have early lambing or late lambing. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.You need to consider the interaction between lambing and your other farming activities. Your labour resources, the food markets, your farm buildings, your farm budget, feed prices, state of the world economy and many other factors should effect your decision. In the past decade there has been and increase in late lambing.
Early lambing occurs in winter and the start of spring. Early lambing fits in better with the full time farmers schedule. With early lambing there is more time to do the spring schedule of land planting, calving, setting the seeds for the summer harvesting.With early lambing you have money in the bank by the time the summer months arrive.
Lambs born in winter are usually sold for a higher price than those born in the spring. The Easter markets usually have the optimum prices for sale of lamb.
Its easier on the farmer to aid a ewe in trouble when shes inside.
Unprdictable weather has less impact when you have your lambs and ewes housed.
You can carry more ewes on the pasture, as feed requirements are at a maintenance level. Lambs are not competing for the limiting resources.
Housing of the lambs and ewes for winter lambing is a big consideration in your decision making process. You must have adequate lambing sheds for the winter. An area for the ewes to give birth, pens for lamb and ewe, an area for lambs and ewes to mix and an area for the ewes that are in waiting to drop.
With winter lambing there are some health problems that can affect your lambs and ewes due to the close proximity and weather. There is higher risk of mastitis, scours and pneumonia.There is an increased chance of lambs chilling and freezing during the winter.
Spring Lambing reduces the amount of labour, expenses and facilities needed.
Spring lambing takes place in March, April and May. The ewes and better reproductively during the spring lambing season.
Suffolk, Dorset, Hampshire and Rambouillet are common crossbreeds used for spring lambing.
There is less assistance and supervision than the winter lambing.
Crossbreeds are recommended for spring lambing.
The farmer gains from having the lambs graze on the spring, summer and autumn forages.
Spring lambing coinsides with the natural breeding cycle.
Ewes and lambs can take advantage of the lush grasses.
You need better pasture management with late lambing.
As the new lambs are born with less supervision and assistance there may be an increase in mortality rate and they are easier prey for predators as there are out in open fields.
Some reports suggest that it is cleaner and the ewe bonds better with the lamb when it is an outside spring lambing.
There is less sheparding control with outside lambing. It is difficult to catch and help a ewe lambing outside.
It is more difficult to get your ewes breeding out of season and autumn lambing is out of season for the natural breeding. Conception rates are low. Fall lambing has less of the problems that winter lambing has in some ways as lambs can be born outside, there is less chance of lamb chilling and hypothermia. Early autumn lambing can be aimed and a different market. The christmas market and the ethnic market.
There is a reduction in the risk of paracites and predators during autumn lambing.
There is more interference with the ewe to get an autumn lambing. There needs to be hormonal manipulation of the ewes natural reproductive cycle. The will also be the need to select a specific breed. You will need to introduce light control.