Progressive lamb production.








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I use a lot of data to manage my flock.  The following data is collected and analyzed:

  • Prolificacy is measured by the number of lambs weaned per ewe dry-lotted after scanning.

  • Ewe longevity is measured by the ewe's age.

  • Growth is measured by taking 3 weights of the lambs.  Generally, these are at weaning, around 100 days and right before slaughter.  The weights are then standardized to 60, 120 and 180 day values by curve fitting the 3 measurements to the Gompertz growth function.  The Gompertz growth function is a mathematical model for growth.  It accounts for the fact that a lamb's growth rate continuously varies with time.  This is particularly important because growth starts to decline as they 'finish' or put on fat.  This method is more accurate and far less optimistic than the linear methods used by virtually everyone else.

  • Ewe feed cost is computed from the ewe's mature weight and weaning rate.  Ewes are weighed once a year and adjusted to Body Condition Score  3.

  • Feed efficiency is computed from the 60, 120 and 180 day weights using a relationship between body weight and feed intake. 

  • Labor.  Prior to 2012, labor costs were distributed evenly across the ewe flock. Starting in 2012, an estimate of individual annual labor requirements is assigned to each ewe.  The principle differentiator is the number of assisted births.  The goal of the labor tracking is to make sure that production levels are optimized with labor requirements. Labor requirements have been used in determining ewe lamb selections starting with the 2013 crop.

This data is used to rank ewes by their financial performance, using a 4-year average.  This ranking, along with constraints to limit prolificacy and lambing problems is used to select breeding stock and identify culls. 

I began using this data-driven approach in Spring 2008.  For the first two years, I did not have a scale, so the growth data was estimated.  Starting In 2010, precise growth data was added. 

In 2014, I began limiting prolificacy in order to reduce labor requirements.  Specifically, ewes were no longer allowed to wean quads, very problematic ewes were culled and lambing ease became a selection criteria. 

Production results for mature ewes born on my farm are presented below.  Results are tracked starting from 2013 due to a copper poisoning issue in 2012.  Finish weights are standardized to 180-day weights.

Production has generally remained constant.  This is despite removing the ultra-prolific ewes from my flock and reducing assisted births.  The goal is profitability - not production at all costs.

Results for ewe lambs are shown below.  Trendline production is decreasing from 2013 levels, which is a result of intentional prolificacy reduction.  Since 2016, there has been a steady increase of about 4 lbs of finished lamb per year.