Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 5, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Tuesday, March 5, 1974 Ross Robinson (left) and Lalovee Jensen docking lamb tails Sheep industry springs new success By RIC SWIHART, Herald Staff Writer MAGRATH-No better proof that spring can't be far away can be found in the hundreds of new- born lambs bawling for their mothers on Lalovee Jensen's farm near here. With breeding ewes, Mr. Jensen, his wife, son and nephew operate Canada's largest purebred registered flock And Mr. Jensen is all smiles these days because the sheep industry has taken a dramatic upswing, with meat and wool prices reaching near record highs. Mr. Jensen, president of the Canadian Sheep and Wool Commission and the Alberta Sheep Breeders Association, claims with the high prices, sheep will return fanners more money per acres than any crop or other animal. A new sheep and lamb processing plant scheduled for construction in Innisfail this spring will add more to the stability and prices for the sheep producer, said Mr. Jensen. Boost sales Although he doesn't raise sheep strictly for slaughter, the higher returns for commercial producers will help to boost the sales for stock because producers will be looking for ways to improve iheir flocks. Mr. Jensen says he raises Rambouiiiet sheep because they fit into any flock improvement irogram and they outlive other heep breeds. Tn the business for 37 vears, Mr. Jensen has evolved his flock until today 95 per cent have no horns. By selecting parents which didn't have horns, he has almost achieved a flock of polled (hornless) sheep. The lambing period, which lasts two months on the Jensen Happy Valley Farm, started Feb. 1. The activity leading up to the lambing season started Sept. 1, 1973 when all the ewes were bred with Ranibouillet rams. As the ewes start to get close to their delivery date, they are put in a large drop pen for close supervision. They are still near the barns where they had been kept since being sheared of their long whiter wool coats earlier in the year. Mr. Jensen said the sheep are sheared early for two reasons: the new lamb can find the udder easier and without the heavy fleece, the ewe isn't as likely to stay out in the cold with the small lamb when shelter is near. When the ewe nears birth, it is moved into small claiming pens about four feet square. Here the ewe waits for the birth of one, two or three lambs. Mr. Jensen said the small claiming pens are used so the ewe will readily accept and learn to identify her own lambs. They are kept in the claiming pens for 24 hours. Once through the first day, the ewes are gathered, along with all their lambs, into pens of 12. These make-up pens are used to ensure the mothers know their own lambs. If they don't, the lambs are put back in a claiming pen with their mother. They are identified with ear tags at birth, which show mother and lamb pairings. Another colored tag identifies the father. When the lambs are two to three days old, they are taken to another pen from the claiming pens. Here Mr. Jensen uses a clamp device to hold the lambs' tails about two inches from its body and with one slice, cuts them off. He said docking tails on sheep is done not only because the tail is a useless pendage, but because it can cause digestive problems for the lamb And sometimes a mother will chew the tail off a lamb if it is short of milk. The docking process is done at an early age to minimize the pain. The ewes and lambs from the make-up pens are taken to the bunching barns, about 100 ewes to a barn, where they are kept until ready for summer pasture. When the Jensen sheep are three months old, a selection is made for potential rams. Mr. Jensen keeps about 300 rams for sale throughout the season and castrates the rest for slaughter. With a lamb crop of 175 to 180 per cent, because of the twinning factor in Rambouillet sheep, Mr. Jensen will end up with almost lambs. But with the help of dogs, he manages to run his operation with about five men and the help of young boys on weekends His son Chris is a graduate in animal science and is responsible for the lambing barns. Another partner, Mr. Jensen's nephew Ross Robinson is an automobile and heavy duty implement mechanic. He looks after all construction and maintenance. In lambing season, more men are required because it takes about three hours each day to ear tag the lambs and keep the records straight. Lamb, which sells in butcher shops, usually is marketed when it reaches 100 -pounds. But Mr. Robinson says lamb will be good even up to 150 pounds. From birth to slaughter is about four to six months.