Lambing Season: Katahdin Twins Are Common

| 4/23/2010 2:45:00 PM

Tags: lambs, sheep, livestock, farms,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.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.

Black Katahdin ewe annd lambs

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.

Black Katahdin ewe with ram lamb

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_2
4/26/2010 1:30:26 PM

Hey KC -- I am ever hopeful that the donkeys will now earn their keep in the guard department. I prefer ankle-biting terrorizers to bona fide guardian dogs. Six-pound Pearl now has several confirmed kills in the rodent department -- and likes to play with the lambs. Border Collies Gus and Clover make a game of chasing coyotes, every night around 2:37 AM.

K.C. Compton
4/26/2010 9:54:42 AM

So, Hank, are you going to get yourself an actual guard dog or two now? Or just manage with those little ankle-biters? Those are some way-cute babies, Mr. Will.

Hank Will_2
4/26/2010 9:39:22 AM

Hey Dave -- When I was young, the only lamb I ever ate was leg of mutton and it tasted to me like the jar of A & D Ointment smelled. I learned later that it was the lanolin in the ointment that made the smell and that the waxy grease was what helped to waterproof a sheep's coat. The only way I could gag that stuff down was with gobs of mint jelly. Fast forward about 30 years and I tasted my first lamb chop (from a real lamb) on the grill (with lots of fresh rosemary). I was hooked then. Katahdin sheep don't produce much if any lanolin and when slaughtered around 9 months of age they are tender and tasty. I couldn't live without dogs. It is really tough when they move on, but before long I find myself longing for another. I loved the James Herriot series on PBS. That's the kind of reality TV I dig -- that and Ice Road Truckers and Axe Men, that is. :)

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