We breed our ewes to start lambing April 20th so Thanksgiving morning we turned 30 ram lambs in with our mature ewes. The rams we use are the best individuals of our own raising that are born and raised as twins out of our very best ewes. We'll be leaving them with the ewes for two heat cycles (approximately 40 days). We're keeping 240 ewe lambs for replacements and they'll be bred during the second half of the breeding season for one heat cycle (more about that later).
We penned our mature ewes and checked their teeth and took all of the older broken mouth ewes out of the group. Most of these ewes would have been 7 years of age or older - with some being much older. It's our experience that once a ewe gets older and starts losing her teeth she's not able to maintain good body condition in the Winter months so it's best to go ahead and sell them for salvage value. Any cull ewes - those that didn't raise lambs, had bad udders or feet or problems of any kind were also removed from the group. This year the cull ewe market is fairly good with cull ewes bringing from 70 cents to $1.10 per pound. It looks like ours will average around $85 per head which isn't bad for a ewe that is no longer of benefit as a breeding ewe.
We weaned our lamb crop and the wether lambs were wormed and given an overeating shot before being taken to our headquarters and put on good Fescue pasture along with self feeders of soy hull pellets. Most years the slaughter lamb market is very good right after the first of the year and we'll market them at that time. The 240 ewe lambs we kept for replacements were given an overeating shot (but not wormed) and put in a separate pasture from their mothers where they'll be moved to fresh pasture daily and also receive a pound of soy hull pellets. We'll put the rams with them for one heat cycle during the second half of the breeding season. The thought process behind this is with them being a little older at breeding we'll get a higher percentage of them bred and they will also lamb on our very best forage of the season in late Spring. We'll lamb them in the same flock with their mothers and several hundred other mature ewes so they will know more of what to expect when it's time for them to have their babies. They will also have time to build immunity to any infectious diseases that might be present in the flock (with us having a closed breeding flock and not bringing in any outside animals this is very unlikely but it's good policy).
Until you've worked a bunch of sheep you just don't realize how much work they can be but it's all worth it in the end. Most times of the year our sheep require very little time - mainly just moving them to fresh pasture using portable electric fence, checking their mineral and water source and feeding the guardian dogs that provide them protection from predators. It's more than worthwhile for year after year they are the most profitable endeavor on our farm.