Our flock is managed on an accelerated lambing schedule to take advantage of the St Croix's unique ability to breed year-round. Researchers at Cornell University developed the STAR accelerated lambing system for a-seasonal breeder such as the St. Croix. Under this system, the flock is divided into three rotating groups. These are: Breeding and pregnant ewes and the rams. Lambing and/or lactating ewes and their lambs. Growing lambs – both market lambs and the replacement ewe lambs. The figure to the right shows how the three groups rotate through the breeding, lambing, lactation and weening phases. The lambs are then moved to a growing lamb group that will eventually go to market or be put back into a breeding group. The ewes are placed back into a breeding cycle after the lambs are weened. Under this accelerated schedule, it is possible to yield three lamb crops in a two-year period. For more information, visit the Cornell University Website.
Key to any breeding program and in particular an accelerated breeding program is proper nutrition. As a sheep or lamb moves through the various phases of the program, their nutritional needs change. In order to ensure that these needs are met, we use the University of Maryland Extension Sheep Ration Evaluator. This series of spreadsheets evaluates a specific feed ration and determines if it meets the specific nutritional needs of sheep or lambs at a specific phase of development. To the right is a sample ration from the UME Ration Evaluator. For more information or to download the ration evaluator, visit the Maryland Small Ruminants webpage
Our sheep stay on pasture as much as possible. When ewes near their lambing date, they are moved to a "maternity pen" where they can receive additional feed rations and be more closely observed. When they exhibit signs of labor or are near/past their lambing date, they are moved to a lambing barn. After the lambs are born, they spend 3-4 days in the barn before being returned to the "maternity pen". Once a breeding group has delivered all its lambs, they are moved back to pasture.