Sheep producers should consider adopting a twice a year lambing season for their operation, although there are some factors they should consider.
According to Travis Hoffman, an assistant professor and Extension sheep specialist for the University of Minnesota Extension and North Dakota State University Extension, a management strategy that sheep producers can choose to implement is having a lamb crop not just once a year, which is done traditionally, but lamb out their ewes twice a year.
Having lambs in the spring and in the fall months allows producers to have their product available during different times in the market, which can minimize the risk of selling an entire lamb crop at one time in a less than ideal market.
The majority of the lambs born in the U.S. are born in the early months of the calendar year. Those lambs are normally harvested July through October, once they make weight. The second crop lambs that would be born in the early fall months could be available for the non-traditional market as well as the traditional market.
“The non-traditional or ethnic market is for Easter and religious holidays,” Hoffman said.
It is important to note that if producers chose to sell their second lamb crop in the traditional market, those lambs would be ready in the summer months, which, according to Hoffman, is when the market prices are the highest.
This strategy could allow producers to have a higher profit margin, although their cost in overhead could go up as well. However, having two lambing seasons a year is not the right fit for every production, Hoffman warns. There are some things that producers should consider before making that decision.
“It’s not for everyone. If you have a smaller flock, what you’re doing is providing more time that you will be in the lambing barn in comparison to the amount of sheep that you’re going to produce,” Hoffman said. “It takes a lot more effort and timing to be lambing at two different times of the year.”
Some producers may opt to use reproductive technologies to get their ewes to cycle for breeding if they choose to lamb out twice a year, as well as keeping a ram close to the ewes. However, those ewes who do lamb out in the autumn months will have a lower lambing percentage.
“That’s something that has to be kept in mind. We’ll have some lambs available at a different time, but there's a lot less twins and a lot less triplets. This is just because those animals aren’t used to it,” Hoffman said.