1A Twenty-six ewes give birth to 58 lambs
By Heather Carlile
Larry and Sue Rasch celebrated their biggest lamb crop in more than 30 years this spring with 58 lambs from 26 ewes, including eight sets of triplets and a set of quadruplets.
Multiple births are rare in black-faced sheep such as Suffolks, Larry said, which is the breed in the Rasches’ flock.
Lambing was easy, and the survival rate was high. The Rasches will be weaning more than 2.2 lambs per ewe. Generally speaking, averaging 1.8 weaned is a good goal in the industry, Larry said.
"I guess we just had a banner year for some reason," he said.
That reason could be the feeding regimen. The ewes aren’t overfed and are given hay until lambing begins. Then they are given grain. Larry also credited their new ram for their spring success. They bought him as a lamb last June at the Midwest Stud Ram Sale in Sedalia, Mo.
The Rasches will sell club lambs for 4-H and FFA projects in the next few weeks. They keep some replacement females and some lambs go to a butcher for their own freezer. The rest go to the meat market.
Larry and Sue started their flock 35 years ago with club lambs for their two sons, Scott and Todd. Both the boys are grown and gone, but the sheep remain.
"They moved on, and Dad couldn’t give up," said Sue.
Larry grew up in southeastern Wisconsin, where his family had a flock. He was involved with 4-H and FFA.
Now retired from Hormel Foods Corp. and teaching, Larry and Sue have had more time in the last couple years to spend with their flock.
The sheep are easy to work with, but their feed costs aren’t. They’re paying double this year over last.
Larry wonders what the rising feed and fuel prices will do for students working with 4-H and FFA projects.
"I hope it doesn’t deter them," he said. "You hate to limit the youth."
Despite his rising inputs, he doesn’t plan to change feeding habits.
Their lamb crop this year included four singles, 13 sets of twins, eight sets of triplets and one set of quads. It was their first set of quads in 14 years. They said the large lamb crop will help them offset the feed bill.
When not with their flock, Larry and Sue enjoy traveling. On a trip to Alaska, they met sheep producers from Australia and later ended up visiting the operation Down Under, where 20,000 Merino ewes are raised.
Agri News is a weekly agricultural newspaper published by Post-Bulletin Company, LLC.