DeWeese expects 140 percent lambing rate for coming season
It is getting close to Pratt County fourth-generation farmer Anita DeWeese’s favorite time of year - lambing season.
“From a young age, I loved to be outside and care for the animals,” said DeWeese. “Growing up, my favorite time of the year was to see the newborn animals.”
Since DeWeese is now an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Skyline Schools, she has downsized her flock. She currently has 30 ewes that range from 2-6 years old. She feeds her ewes whole corn prior to breeding, which increases the conception rate. This season, she is expecting a 140% lambing rate. DeWeese has some ewes that often have twins or triplets.
On the DeWeese farm, lambs are born anywhere from mid-December to February, meaning that the 5-12 pound babies need a lot of shelter and care to hold up in the cold Kansas winters. DeWeese said she tries to time breeding and consequent lambing to fall between Christmas and January 15, when she is on Christmas break from teaching.
She said lambs born at this time are a great size and age for young showmen looking for lambs for their county fairs.
“During the lambing season, it is not uncommon for me to sleep in the barn or get very little sleep. On cold nights, I am up checking for new lambs every 1.5- 2 hours all night,” DeWeese said. “When a lamb is born, they are put in a small pen, called a "jug" with the ewe. This allows the ewe and lamb to bond.”
This is the arrangement for the first 1-3 days of the lamb’s life.
It is not an uncommon sight to see a ewe have twins or triplets. If more than one lamb has to nurse off the same ewe, one of them will likely need to be bottle-fed, DeWeese said. This occurs every 2-3 hours.
DeWeese showed lambs in 4-H and FFA growing up, and as she grew older and went to college, her parents’ flock began to get bigger and bigger. When her own daughters, Taylor and Jessica were old enough to show in 4-H, they started purchased their lambs from Anita’s parents.
“We started saving the ewe lambs to build their own flock,” said Anita. “Both daughters helped with the sheep, with everything from cleaning barns to doing night time lambing checks.”
With Taylor and Jessica no longer at home, the bulk of the sheep-raising responsibilities fall entirely on DeWeese, but that doesn’t dampen her enthusiasm for the coming season of new birth and high expectations for her sheep flock.