Spring is the season typically associated with new lambs and the birth of other animals around the farm. However, many farmers choose to breed ewes in the spring to produce lambs in the early fall months.
It all comes down to supply and demand. During the fall and winter months, lamb supply is decreased and therefore market values rise. Lambs that are born in September and October hit their “market weight” when the supply is low and farmers can sell them for a higher price.
Lambs born in the fall can also be ready to show during spring agriculture show season. Autumn weather also creates ideal conditions for ewes to graze during their lactation period and for pasture lambing.
Beginning a fall lambing operation can be tricky. Ewes will typically need increased energy in order to go into estrus. Be sure to stock up on high-quality feed in preparation for breeding. Some breeds of sheep including Dorset and Polypay are naturally more suited to fall lambing. Individual sheep within these breeds may also be better suited to fall lambing. Some producers may try to manipulate the light-dark cycle, but this can prove difficult. Use of melatonin or progestin hormones can also help to control the fertility cycle of the ewes.
The most critical factor in a successful fall lambing is the introduction of the ram. During the spring months, the selected ewes that are non-cycling should be kept away from the ram for at least 4 weeks. Once the ram is re-introduced, a hormonal response may result in the fertility of the ewe and a successful pairing.
Keep in mind - fall will typically not produce the quantity of lambs as spring and lambs may be of a lower birth weight. However, taking advantage of fall lambing can bring increased prices at a time when stock is low.