We have been raising Polypays on our farm in Wayne County Ohio for over 20 years. What first got us interested in Polypays is what we still like about the breed – they give you options.
Polypays can lamb in the fall and at 8 month intervals (selection helps), they wean lots of lambs that grow well, and you don’t have to pour the corn to the ewes to keep them in good condition. Our two pasture lambings (May and Sept) require less attention than our January barn lambing. With good forage ewes can raise twins and triplets on pasture without additional grain. Our goal is to let the sheep harvest as much of their feed as possible. With the exception of our January lambers, we keep our ewes outside all year.
Registered Polypays since 1987.
100 + ewes on pasture based production system.
Accelerated lambing (3X per year) with lamb crops in January, April/May and September.
Selecting for ewes that will lamb 3X in 2 years (every 8 months).
National Sheep Improvement Association (NSIP)
EBVs (expected breeding values) available
Selection for maternal traits to identify the best genetics for producing profitable mothers for commercial producers.
Foot Rot Free and OPP negative
Registered and commercial rams, ewes and lambs for sale.
Over the years...
We got our first sheep in 1986 and quickly became interested in accelerated lambing. We soon settled on the STAR system, which gives the ewes a chance to lamb 5 times in 3 years. We used the STAR system for about 15 years; with this system you have 5 lambing periods a year, so it is fairly labor intensive. The STAR system is an effective way to identify ewes that can breed back shortly after weaning. We now lamb 3X a year, so the ewes are exposed to lamb every 8 months. If a ewe breeds back at every opportunity she will lamb 3X in two years. Since there are fixed costs for maintaining ewes, we find it more profitable and a better use of resources to use an accelerated lambing system. Having 3 lamb crops a year instead of one also helps spread out the work at lambing time and keeps some income coming in most of the year.
Polypays are a very good choice for accelerated lambing since they are good out of season lambers. It is possible to get twins and triplets every 8 months and some ewes can average over 3 lambs a year weaned for their lifetime.
Over the years we had success selecting for ewes that accelerate and wean a lot of lambs, but we felt the growth of our lambs could be better, so we enrolled in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) to help develop more balanced ewes that would produce fast growing twins and triplets. Data submitted to NSIP includes birth weights, 60 day weaning weights and post weaning weights, in our case we weigh the lambs at 90 days but many use 120 days. We often market lambs before 120 days so we weigh at 90 days instead. The NSIP software keeps track of all of the genetic links between animals within and between flocks and uses the performance of related animals to help predict the performance of their offspring. The data is presented as an Expected Progeny Difference (EPD). This extended data base improves the decision making of the shepherd greatly and allows much faster progress to be made on traits important to profitability, such as Weaning Weight, Post Weaning Weight, Number Born, Maternal Milk, Milk and Growth and Pounds of Lamb Weaned.
We now base our selection on Pounds of Lamb Weaned, a composite EPD that will help the shepherd identify the genetics that will lead to more lambs born, with better milk production and good growth as well. Pounds of Lamb Weaned is sometimes referred to as the “Holly Grail” of lamb production. In 2010 Lambshire Polypays is joining forces with four other producers across four states to form a ram sharing group (Mt. Rushmore Consortium) that will allow us to make much quicker progress in identifying the best genetics to improve Pounds of Lamb Weaned. We will have 15 sire lines and use a continuous improvement approach to improving these sire lines by replacing a ram with a son that has a better epd for Pounds of Lamb Weaned as soon as he is identified. Our goal, besides improving our own flocks production, is to provide the best possible genetics to other shepherds in the commercial or registered Polypay business.