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Old 14th January 2011, 10:37 AM   #1
Storey Cottage
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How long do sheep live/breed?

Hi All

How old would you expect a ewe to have lambs? Looking at a mob for my daughter and she wants to know how long she can expect to get lambs from them? They are currently between 3 and 5 years old...

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Old 14th January 2011, 11:36 AM   #2
LongRidge
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

With mammals, only humans and one other species stops ovulating. All other mammals keep ovulating, and can have offspring until they die. Thus pregnancy is a big cause of death in old animals.
I have had a sheep that produced well until her 12th year, then she got retired. I have a Suffolk that still has teeth that will be 10 years old this autumn, and if in good enough condition she will get another go. We plan that all our 7 year olds and older will be culled. Sometimes they get another go, sometimes they don't. It depends on their teeth, their constitution, and the quality of the lamb/s that they make.
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Old 14th January 2011, 12:05 PM   #3
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

I had a 12 year old girl who had twins. She finally went just before turning 13 and as she used to eat out of my hand, she got the burial treatment instead of the freezer treatment. Gezz I must be getting soft in my old age
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Old 14th January 2011, 01:51 PM   #4
RaeM1
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

We have an old stud ewe South suffolk, that after two years of holiday decided to have a lamb this year, and she has lost her brass tag, but I am sure taht she is at least 11 years old. I had to help feed him for a while before he weaned himself off the bottle milk far prefering mums little drops that she gave him.
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Old 14th January 2011, 04:18 PM   #5
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

Angie and Mildred are my oldest girls ...Angie is a romney and Mildred is a suffolk
they are both 13 this year ....Mildred had twins this season just gone ...Angie did not have anything ...first time ever ...however the season before Angie produced quads 3 girls and a boy ...all survived ...so your lot are really just babies
I think well loved and looked after ewes can go forever-ish ...having said that I think I may try and retire a few of my old ladies this coming season ...the ones that are 11 12 and 13
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Old 14th January 2011, 07:07 PM   #6
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

Maybe it is something to do with when they first lambed? I have 5-6 year old sheep who have never lambed and for that reason have no intention of lambing them at that age. On the other hand, I have had sheep lamb up to 10 and do really well.

I think Terralee is right when she says how good their condition and teeth are. Mine still have really good teeth when they are "old" as they are never short of feed so are not wearing down their teeth against say a ewe that is foraging on a dirt paddock. Just a random opinion not based on any science!
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Old 14th January 2011, 11:23 PM   #7
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

Under reasonable conditions i.e. reasonably good access to food and health care, a sheep has a lifespan of between 11 and 13 years and can breed right up until the end.

However, there are provisos that go with that - the older they get, the better the grass and heath care has to become. The lambs from very old ewes will often be weak and small, and the ewe will equally often not have the milk to feed it/them so they do need extra care and attention - which is why sheep farmers send their ewes to the works once they become full mouth.

For your daughter's purposes, between 3 and 5 is fine if she has good grass and can look to keeping them well for the next 3-5 years, they have several good years of lambs left in them. Unless they have been culled from a larger flock because they are useless, they should be experienced in lambing, know what they're doing and will be a good place for her to start if she hasn't had sheep in the past.

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Old 15th January 2011, 11:40 AM   #8
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

My neighbour has an ancient ewe, Sooty, who was born the year after they bought their property, which would make her 20 last year. She has her own 'retirement' paddock and doesn't get around much, has had one toe amputated on one front leg. 2007 she had twins, they never got very big as her milk supply was poor and maybe they were small to begin with, 2008 they kept her away from the ram, 2009 same again but the ram managed it when the shearer was over, and she ended up with a huge single boy which had to be pulled out dead by the vet, last year was when she got her own paddock and peace at last! But by my estimate she was still birthing and feeding healthy lambs up until the age of 16...
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Old 15th January 2011, 12:02 PM   #9
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

Dolly is my oldest ewe at a 12 years young every year without fail she pops out big bouncing twins, her udder is always full of milk for them and they are healthy as any of the 2 year old ewes babies
My sheerer checks my girls teeth on shearing and tells me if they are looking like they should be retired and by that i mean not put back to the ram again, other than that i just watch my old girl like a hawk and make sure she is well cared for all year round
I am happy for her to keep lambing while she is fit and well, i think she would miss lambing, she loves her babies so much and i often find her along side a new mum showing them how its done too...
Her lambs are not small by any means and her milk supply is always more than enough for her twins so i personally have never had to supplement any of her lambs.
Hope my little 2 cent worth helped in some way..i love my old girl and my others are now 7 years young down to 2 year old...a mixed bag and it works really well
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Old 15th January 2011, 04:04 PM   #10
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

As Westermans has hinted at .....
You should plan to cull 20% of your flock every year, and replace them with either their lamb that knows your place and your bugs, or with first lambers. Otherwise you suddenly find that you've got a flock of very old sheep, and no young ones coming on. Managing rams to avoid in-breeding is rather difficult though.
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Old 17th January 2011, 11:09 AM   #11
Storey Cottage
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Re: How long do sheep live/breed?

Thanks all, well #1 Daughter is quite happy now and the proud owner of 6 Coopwroth Ewes and a nice (Huge) Suffolk Ram...

Rotating Rams now there is the next problem for her to deal with...we only have 3 paddocks so impossible to run more than one ram and rotate them away from offspring so I guess if we intend to keep any of the female offspring she will need to get a new ram every year....
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