We did pregnancy testing for our ‘ewe lambs’, those who were born May, 2012. Among the approximately 1400 lambs born last spring, we chose the 300 best females to be put to the rams in December.
However, we know not all of them have been bred. We want to keep only those females who are pregnant, and to sell the others in time for Greek Orthodox Easter, May 5th. It costs us too much to keep non-productive animals – it doesn’t pay to be coy when the rams arrive.
Our goal is always to produce great quality lamb.
Also it is important for us to cull any lambs that are not bred at one year of age, as those are the genetics we seek. After 38 years of selective culling, we are much closer to achieving the ideal Topsy ewe.
The pregnancy testing process is pretty interesting. We use an ultrasound machine which will emit a different sound when sound waves bounce off amniotic fluid in the uterus. (We have to make sure the lambs have empty bladders so as not to confuse the machine.)
Our shepherd Christopher needs good wand contact on the lamb’s belly so he squirts it with cooking oil. When contact is good he hears a regular beep. The machine emits a continuous note if the amniotic fluid is detected.
Ideally the pregnancy testing is done before 90 days of pregnancy, when the fetus is not yet too large.
Of course there are no guarantees, and we want to keep all who are carrying, so all the lambs which did not show pregnant were retested after two weeks, in hopes of catching others.
The first test showed 225 out of 300 appear to be bred. It took three people 6 hours to complete the first process.
The second pregnancy testing, 2 weeks later found an additional 22, probably bred later.
Just before shipping, all the lambs apparently not pregnant were tipped up on their bottoms to check udders, a third test, which may indicate a few more carrying fetuses that the machine did not detect. We found 3 pretty definite and a couple of other maybe’s.
So they will stay too, and hopefully will contribute their share to the frolic of lambs we anticipate very soon.
(Sorry, barn photos of this process didn’t work well so here are frolic photos by Don Tubb instead.)