Lambing season has begun on my Osage County Kansas farm. Missy, our black bottle lamb from last year dropped her Katahdin twins last Tuesday without any complication other than being slow to clear the membrane from the ram lamb’s face. Happily, my Partner in Culinary Crime was on hand to let the gasping guy out of his sack – he was a little slower than his sister but within an hour was up on his feet claiming his share of colostrum. The comical milk moustaches Missy’s twin lambs wear today are a testament to her fine ability to handle the reproductive load – she’s got lambing season down pat.
I once read a blog post decrying the value of Katahdin hair sheep, particularly during lambing season. The post’s author had a personal vendetta against the breed and offered up the Merino breed as the end all be all. (Funny the things that get people wound up – Ford vs. Dodge, John Deere vs. IH ….) His principle complaint regarding Katahdin sheep was that they had a “very poor” reproductive rate. Huh? He reported that Katahdin ewes were lucky to pull off a birth rate of 100 percent – that’s one live birth per ewe. Anyone in the livestock business knows that if a bred ewe can’t deliver at least one live offspring during lambing season, she isn’t long for the flock. Not one to take everything I read at face value, I did some investigating. Turns out Katahdin ewes are known for multiple births – up to 222 percent average in large flocks. That explains why the Katahdin ewes I know in Kansas often produce twins and triplets during lambing season and wean twins on their own most of the time.
More Katahdin twins are on the way at my farm. Plenty of lush, protein-rich grass is available to help their moms get them off to a good start. All we have to do is keep the coyotes at bay and soon enough that good grass will turn into some of the most delicious, nutritious and tender meat I know of.
Photos courtesy Karen Keb.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.