Back in April of 2010, we brought in a new herd of Kathdin sheep and a Barbado Black Belly ram. The plan was, and still is, to breed the two and develop a hybrid sheep, which we named Katahbados, that will be very adaptable to the Georgia heat, have improved parasite resistance, and also improving upon the already high quality meat that each produce. This is called hybrid vigor.
We decided to leave our ram in the pen with the ewes and let nature take its course rather than separating the rams and ewes until breeding time. After all, we have two experienced moms and a few young ewes that hadn't given birth yet, so it seemed a good mix - along with a lot of prayer.
We raise our sheep in a very natural way. We never give any medications for parasites, instead we believe preventive care is the best method. We do weekly paddock moves, add DE (diatomaceous earth) to their sugar beets and mineral block, and give them organic apple cider vinegar and ocean minerals with their water. We keep guineas and turkeys with the sheep in the summer which helps control any tick problems and we run the chickens behind the sheep to help eliminate any parasites that may still be in larvae stage on their manure. This is symbiosis at its best.
Preparing for lambs....
Preparing for the birth of new lambs really starts before mating. Making sure the sheep have a good forage and occasional snack of left over spinach, beets, pac choi and swiss chard to round out their diets. When lambing season comes around, we are constantly watching the ewe, making sure she is moving around nicely and growing proportionately. During winter pregnancy, having high quality hay is vital as well as organic apple cider vinegar. The vinegar contains high amounts of potassium, which allows the blood vessels in the uterus to expand and increase blood flow, helping the fetus move into the right position prior to birth.
When the ewe is ready for birth, we are on constant watch, especially if it is a new mother. Things can go wrong quick. When Momma, our oldest ewe, gave birth we had some confidence that she was going to have success. After all, she has delivered many times and never had a problem. Still, a successful birth in the dead of winter can be very hard on new born lambs born on pasture. Nicole built a hay structure inside the sheep mobile to help keep the wind and rain off and we put there paddock in the woods for added shelter. Sunday, January 23rd at 11:00am, we had our first Katahbados lambs born. Of course, Momma delivered in the woods, away from the shelter that was built for her.
Superbowl Sunday, we had a big surprise. Hurrying to get to the farm before our Superbowl party, we walked up to check on the sheep before leaving and discovered hooves peaking out of the back side of a year old sheep. I guess there were two surprises that day, one that she was delivering and two, we didn't know she was pregnant. After some labor struggles she finally had a healthy boy lamb in the woods. Nicole and I were able to see this miracle happen. God is good. Just one lamb was born, hence the reason for her disguised pregnancy. We were pleasantly surprised to see her bond right away with the new born lamb, licking it clean and urging him to stand and feed.These are definitely great traits for a first time mother.Abe, our Barbados Black Belly ram, did his job and now three (with more to come) healthy lambs will start a new hybrid Katahbados breed at 180.
Nicole has given them names, which normally we try to stay away from when we are processing animals for meat, but exceptions have been made. At least the female, named Toupee (because of the white patch on her head that looks like a bad toupee), will become part of the breeding flock and will be around for a long time. We can't wait to have more little Katahbados lambs born on the farm. Spring is in the air.