Are Lambs Only Born In The Spring?

lamb sitting in the shade of daffodils

Spring time means green grass, birds chirping and lambs jumping and running in the fields. While those lambs are super cute, why do you only see them in the spring?

Can lambs be born at other times of the year or are all lambs born in the spring only?

Most lambs are born in the spring, since most sheep are capable of being seasonal breeders only. Some breeds of sheep, like Dorset or Polypay are non seasonal breeders and can potentially have lambs any time of year.

8 Beginner Friendly Breeds Of Sheep gives you a few easy to work with sheep breeds that would be great candidates for your first flock!

Most lambs are born in the spring

Most lambs are born in the spring.

This is due to three reasons:

  1. seasonality of the breeding cycle
  2. weather at lambing for sheep born outside
  3. grass growth in spring and early summer

Seasonality of the sheep breeding cycle

Many sheep are seasonal breeders, which means they can only have lambs in the late winter and spring of the year.

Many of the more popular breeds of sheep, like Suffolk, will be seasonal breeders and have lambs only in the spring of the year.

In the U.S. this common lambing window is from February through May, with some sheep lambing as early as January, inside barns, of course!

The most popular time for lambing is March, which takes advantage of the higher fertility of sheep in October, but also requires indoor lambing in most of the country.

Outdoor lambing, called pasture lambing, is normally done in May in my area, Ohio, and April in areas that are a bit milder than here.

Lambs can be born anytime of year

There are a few breeds of sheep, Dorset and Polypay for example, that are able to have lambs nearly anytime of the year.

Some folks with these breeds of sheep choose to lamb in the spring anyway, we do, but if they chose, some of these ewes will also breed out of season to expand the lambing options.

If you are interested in more of the business side of sheep, consider reading Sheep For Profit, which shows you how to figure up your costs as well as your income for your area.

lambs looking at salt block
Lambs investigating the salt block.

Why spring lambing is popular

Spring lambing is so popular for a few reasons, the natural breeding cycle of the sheep themselves and the availability of forages in the late spring to feed the ewe and her lambs.

Spring lambing is popular because:

  • most breeds of sheep are seasonal breeders
  • grass is ideal feed for milking moms and fast growing lambs
  • matches highest production season of the land to feeding needs of the flock
  • nice weather for newborn lambs

In the spring a farm or ranch goes from needing to provide feed for the sheep, usually in the form of hay, to having all kinds of grass growing for the sheep.

While gestation is not a high energy needs time for a ewe, milking for growing babies sure is! A ewe with a nice set of twins needs good grass to eat so that she can provide the milk her lambs need.

Lambs will also start nibbling on grass when they are a few days old and will be eating a significant part of their diet as grass by the time they are two months old. Having the flock on pasture makes this easy.

Generally, grass is an economical, high quality feed for the flock

From a business perspective, when raising any animal the highest reoccurring cost you’ll have for them is feeding them.

In most situations, grass is an economical and high quality feed source for the flock when compared to purchased forages, like hay.

Anytime sheep owners can feed their flock on grass versus something like hay, which is an additional cash cost, they save money.

The best part is that sheep perform well on grass and love to eat it, a double win!

Fall lambs are the next most popular

For any of the sheep that can have an extended breeding season, fall lambs are another popular option.

Lambs born in the fall will still get the benefit of nicer weather for the newborns and being able to eat grass with their mom.

An additional advantage to fall lambs is that these lambs are outside of the normal lambing season, so when it is time to sell them, they usually bring more money, simply due to supply and demand.

Pros And Cons Of Sheep gives you a overview of the good and the not so good that comes with raising a flock of sheep.

Out of season sheep can lamb about every 8-9 months

While most ewes can have lambs one time per year, that interval is every 8-9 months for the year round breeders.

If the sheep you are working with are out of season breeders, you can have lambs more than one time per year, every other year. How? This has to do with the every 8-9 months part.

Here’s an ideal situation example:

If the lambs are born in March and weaned in June, well managed out of season breeding capable sheep should be able to be bred back within the next 30 days or so.

This means that the ewes will be bred by July, which will make the lambs due in December. That’s two lambings in this calendar year.

The December lambs will be weaned in February and the ewes bred back in March, which makes the next set of lambs due in August.

These lambs will be weaned in October, which puts the ewes back on track to lamb in March the next year.

As you look through this example, you can see that the lambs are sometimes born in the spring and sometimes not, it depends upon which part of the two year cycle they are in.

Please note that this is an ideal situation that requires top notch management and sheep that can breed on this schedule, once again, not all breeds are capable of it, in fact, most sheep are not.

It is also important to realize that planning this lambing schedule and actually making it happen are two separate things! This is a high demand schedule for both the owner and the flock.

Keeping up this level of production mandates nutrition programs that are on point and care and management skills to keep both the ewes and the lambs healthy and vigorous.

For more details about out of season lambing, consider reading about the STAR system. This is an out of season lambing system put together by Brian Magee and Doug Hogue of Cornell.

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