Marketing Lambs

In the autumn, our focus includes marketing lambs.

They were weaned in the third week of August, giving their moms a much needed rest. The lambs blatted for a bit; the ewes gave one token call then bent to graze, a look of relief on their faces. As the lambs were rapidly catching up to their moms in size, and many ewes were still nursing twins, the physical demands were becoming too much.

In September, the lambs were very gradually introduced to grain, starting with the oats that they like least. That means they just nibble a bit here and there, very gradually adapting their digestive systems to grain. Since we were blessed with such gentle weather in October and November, the grazing continued abundant, there was no loss of body heat due to cold and wet, and the lambs grew beautifully. In the first week of November, all the lambs traveled to our barn and moved through the chutes, so our shepherd Christopher could assess their condition, and look for any health concerns. He feels the loins (the backbone area behind the ribs) of those who appear close to market weight, wanting to be able to feel the backbone (not too fatty) but not a great ridge of backbone (not yet ‘finished’). Then they are weighed and if appropriate, marked with paint. The lambs get very used to this routine, as they travel through the chutes weekly from November through March and appear not in the least stressed by the activity.

We’ve been challenged this fall by the fact that our ferry has been sent to Wolfe Island from Thanksgiving to the end of December, while their ferry is overhauled. That means we use the very much smaller Glenora ferry, which in turn greatly limits the size of trucking or trailer vehicles allowed on deck. Once we tried on a Sunday morning loading a larger trailer, pushing it on with a truck on the Island, unhooking, then unloading with another truck previously parked on the mainland. That was not a great success, delayed other traffic and wasn’t repeated. We make do with smaller vehicles. In the big winds of early December the ferry was tied up for much of three days (we considered the rest of the world was cut off, not us). We’ll all rejoice when our big sturdy boat returns to us before freeze-up.

We’ve had over 500 lambs this season deemed likely to grow to over 100 lbs weight. With the increasing interest in eating locally, we hope to sell most of them privately or to local butchers in the Ottawa/Kingston/Toronto area. Another hundred or so will be sent live weight to Toronto, where Topsy lamb always gets premium price.

In the second week of December, the ‘teaser ram’ was put in with the ewes. (That means a male with a vasectomy.) This makes the ewes come into heat more rapidly, tend to ovulate two or more eggs and to do so in greater sync. Next week the 19 rams will join the over 900 ewes (in carefully selected sub-groupings) and the process will be repeated.