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March 24, 2017

Why Are Lambs Born During The Winter?

Have you ever wondered why lambs are most often born during the cold winter months of January and February? At first glance it may not make sense. Wouldn’t it be easier for both sheep and shepherd if lambs were born during the warmers months?

Lambs are born during the winter for various reasons. One main reason is that sheep are seasonal breeders meaning that their ‘estrus cycle’, the time period when they are receptive to mate’ is determined by photo-period or length of the day/night. Sheep are short day/long night breeders meaning they breed late summer/early fall and consequently their lambs are born in the winter and spring.

Second, during the winter, the pasture that sheep normally eat is dormant. This means that the sheep are primarily feeding on hay and grain which is most often kept down at a barn. Incidentally, this also means the sheep are down at the barn making it more likely for them to lamb in the safety and protection of the barnyard areas. Winter lambing also means that the farmer has more close, direct contact with the sheep as the are spending more time in and around the barn. That means that farmers can monitor all the sheep very closely and provide help with lambing and then care of the lambs afterwards. This extra attention and care is a right choice for the health and safety of the ewes before and after lambing as well as the lambs.

Winter lambing also corresponds with the market demands for sheep products.

If you are interested in learning more about sheep you can visit: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/management-reproduction/time-lambing