Seasonal-Use Production Systems

Many farmers in New Mexico could make excellent use of sheep on a seasonal basis if a year-round sheep production system is not suitable. An abundance of high-quality, fine-wool range ewes are sold every fall. Generally, these ewes are five to six years old. From a reproductive standpoint, this is an ideal age. Ewes of this age should have a high percentage of twins.

Select range ewes carefully. Cull those with bad udders and exceptionally bad mouths. Place the ewes on pastures or crop residue. Flush the ewes from three weeks before until three weeks after introducing the rams. The flushed ewes, if properly conditioned and bred for spring lambing, should have the potential to produce lamb crops of 140 to 160 percent.

The management alternatives for this type of a production system are numerous. If spring pasture or feed is not available, or if facilities are not available to lamb the ewes, there may be a demand for bred ewes in the spring or for ewes with young lambs. If pasture is not available for the ewes after lambing, the lambs can be weaned early for feeding in a drylot, and the ewes can be sold.

A seasonal-use program is a good way to market farm-produced roughages and keep labor busy in the off-season. The biggest objection to bringing range-raised sheep onto a farm is that they often are wild and sometimes difficult to manage.

If there is an abundance of winter pasture and crop residue, pasturing feeder lambs can be profitable. This is more speculative than other seasonal-use programs because market values can change, with potentially devastating results.