Drift Lambing

We’re trying our hand at drift lambing this year.

We start with everyone in one paddock and take advantage of the ewes inclination to stay in the area where she birthed for a certain amount of time. When lambing starts the ewes who have not lambed are drifted forward. The ewes who have lambed remain where they are. This is accomplished just by walking through the flock; the ewes without lambs move off readily and the ewes with new lambs stay put or soon drop behind as they travel.

Now we have two groups, the drift group and the group with lambs. We repeat the drift in a day or two, depending on how many lambs are birthed or the grass situation. The drift group moves on to the next paddock, the newest lambs and their moms remain (middle paddock), the oldest lambs and their moms are still one paddock behind where they were dropped out on the first move. This creates a front, middle and back group which will be maintained throughout the rest of lambing. The front, drift group continues to move forward, we’re always creating a new middle group, and as the back group (ewes with the oldest lambs) begins to migrate, they join with the previous middle group.

Drift Group - Ewes who have not yet lambed
At the start of lambing the drift group is the largest, the lambed group the smallest. As we progress through lambing the drift group becomes smaller and the lambed group grows.

We’re also using this pasture lambing method to try to keep up with castrating and docking tails. When the front group is drifted out, we have any ewes with new lambs remaining behind in one paddock. So now we know we have to catch X number of lambs in this paddock which is much easier to do without having several hundred ewes in there at the same time, or having ewes with older lambs that we’ve already done mixing things up. It also means that the only animals we’re disturbing are the ones we need to catch instead of the whole group as would be the case if we were set lambing (keeping everyone together for the duration of lambing). Catching the lambs is also far easier because they are only 24 to 48 hours old. For the most part the ewes hang around bellering while we have their lambs and are immediately reunited when we release the them. 

So far this is working well. The one glitch was self created when we hosted the stock dog clinic and trials this past week. We had to switch to a few days of set lambing (the ewes remained in one spot during the clinic and trial as we couldn’t manage the flock moves at that time). On Saturday evening, when we could catch up again we had numerous ewes with lambs who were now ready and able to move with the drift group because the window of time that holds a ewe to her birthing area had passed.

I managed that next flock move only letting three older lambs slip by (which I have since managed to catch). There was now a large drop group of over a hundred lambs to catch up on for castrating and docking tails and they were old enough to keep out of reach on pasture. To catch up while lambs were still under a week old, we brought this group to a yard area and caught them there. This created far more upset for ewes and lambs than when we catch on pasture. When it was all said and done, this group joined the back group and we were caught up for one day.

Drop Group - Ewes With Lambs
Meanwhile another 70 odd lambs were birthed. So today was another drift move and a full day of catching those 70, one and two day old lambs, on pasture. I’m about done in for the night, I tell yah but tonight was quiet, with only four new lambs, so maybe I’ll have a bit of a reprieve tomorrow.