Creating a mating plan is one of the foundations of the breeding process, and to help us decipher this maze of family ties, we use a program called WebLammas. The program automatically calculates the degree of inbreeding between each ram and ewe. Utilizing this information, we can divide ewes into their own mating groups. Naturally, […]
Creating a mating plan is one of the foundations of the breeding process, and to help us decipher this maze of family ties, we use a program called WebLammas. The program automatically calculates the degree of inbreeding between each ram and ewe. Utilizing this information, we can divide ewes into their own mating groups. Naturally, the sheep farmer’s previous experiences and impressions of the compatibility of certain ewes and rams are also an important factor. In the breeding process, we aim to keep the degree of inbreeding as low as possible, and the absolute maximum is 6 %.
We are going through extremely exciting times in the sheep barn during this mating period, as two new rams imported from Latvia – Pontus and Rudolf – entered mating duty. This way we get a lot of new genomes into the Finnish Oxford Down breed. The young rams got to acquaint themselves with their own ewe groups right from the quarantine at the end of September, and very soon you could see the marks on the ewes. By that, I mean that the sheep farmer will apply marking paint onto the rams’ chests at the beginning of the mating period, which will then leave a “mark” on the ewes’ backs during the mating. All these new marks will be recorded, and with this information we can calculate an individual due date for each ewe. Oxford Down ewes carry their babies for about 5 months, so the first baby lambs can be expected to start frolicking around the sheep barn at the beginning of February or March. We apply the marking paint daily to ensure that the marks will remain clear. Fortunately, our rams are quite jovial buddies, so applying the color is one of our favorite tasks, since we get to have a little chitchat with our boys and reward them with some rubs for their cooperation.
During October and November, we let our own rams mate. In addition to Rudolf and Pontus, we have nine rams on duty at this very moment: Aatu, Babar, Durak, Eemi, Frodo, Gerald, Kindo, Mario, and Obelix, all of whom are from different male lines. Of these nine rams, Gerald and Mario were born last spring, while the others are a bit older and more experienced veterans. There is a total of about 150 ewes taking part in mating, so we expect there to be way over 250 lambs frolicking around our farm by the beginning of summer. Since the sheep that are selected for breeding are given names with the same initial alphabet as their sire, it will be a challenge to come up with so many unique names…
We will soon have a short break from mating the sheep, so that we can take a breather in the spring after the first lambing season. Or rather, Outi and Jari can, when they set off to conquer the landscapes of Ruka on their skis. Roosa will stay at the farm to keep an eye on the flock and substitute for them.
Soon after, we will screen the ewes with ultrasound to find out whether they are pregnant or not. Our fine rams are having another go at the ewes that aren’t clearly pregnant. These ewes form the second mating group of the spring.
So, we will have our fingers crossed that th hard work we did during fall will be rewarded in the spring with a whole lot of healthy lambs suited for breeding!