Shiro and her 2021 ram lamb

If you are considering starting a flock, or are just getting started with your breeding program, you may wonder how many lambs you will have. I can’t predict that, of course, but I can share my own experience.

Since 2011, we have had 216 lambs born on our farm. After putting Gus in with the ladies this fall, I did some number crunching to generate lambing rate statistics from my records. In 2015 I improved my record keeping, so these are based on 2015-2021. One hundred nine births resulted in 182 lambs, for a lambing rate of 1.67. Some years we bred a few ewe lambs, who tend to have singles if they get pregnant. Without them, the rate is 1.73. I can count on every ewe to lamb every year from age 2 to around 10-12. They are very reliable.

However, not all lambs survive. Our losses to stillbirths and newborn deaths over those 7 springs were 22, or 12%. Some could have been prevented, but I have learned not to beat myself up about what I could have done differently. I’m always learning. In the last 3 years, we have only lost 7%.

So – lambs that survived until weaning were 1.5 per ewe. Good mothering is a top priority in my breeding program, and most of the time, my ewes don’t need anything from me beyond good nutrition. I’ve only had to pull (help deliver) 6 of our 216 lambs. An occasional heat lamp on a cold newborn or a bottle for a hungry triplet helps, but my Babydoll Southdown ewes excel at what they do.