At Lone Star Dahl Sheep Farm, we have more than 30 years of experience in sheep farming. Here in the tall oaks and the piney woods of southeast Texas, we raised Barbados Black Belly sheep along with rabbits, chickens, and garden vegetables. The sheep thrive upon the varied vegetation that is native to the big thicket area. Our animals love spending the day grazing on pasture grasses, the Yaupon thickets, and the many tree saplings they can reach.
One day, a fawn-colored ewe gave birth to a snow-white ram lamb, and we saw the potential for a marketable animal known as the Texas Dall. As more white lambs were produced, we separated the Black Bellies from the Texas Dalls and bred for a consistent white coat. In addition to their graze and browse, we added daily servings of pelleted sheep feed, quality hay, and a high-mineral baked molasses tub to their diet to enhance horn growth.
As we refined our Texas Dall bloodline, our ram’s horn growth increased with lengths reaching into the middle 30-inch range. In late 2006, we brought two yearling Texas Dall rams out of the Theis bloodline. The sire of our new breeding rams was an impressive creature. At four years of age, his horns were 41 3/4 inches by 42 inches. At the time of his death, his horns measured 45 1/2 inches. His bloodline carries on in our rams today.
We breed our ewes in October to produce lambs in March. This works out well for us, living here in the woods and thickets of southeast Texas because the ryegrass will be thick and perfect for the young lambs to start nibbling on as they follow their ewe moms around the pastures.
Once the lambs get serious about eating what their mama ewe eats and following her to the feed trough, it’s time to make a creep feeder. As the name implies, a creep feeder is an area that only the lambs can “creep” into. Use your imagination! You can use a hog panel or two, raised off the ground about 11 to 12 inches with T-posts, or use what you have handy.
Our farm has a small pen in the corner of the barnyard. We raised the wire panels and placed a feed trough inside. Place your creep feeder near where the ewes eat, and be patient. One lamb will see the trough and creep under the wire panel to investigate. Soon others will follow. We start off with just a bit of feed in the trough (waste not, want not) and increase the feed as more lambs come in. The lambs will excel with plenty of feed, and the ewes will tend to dry up quicker. It’s a win-win situation!
We watch the little ones grow, and around August, we separate the ram lambs from their ewes and put them into the ram pen with the rest of the guys. The little rams form their own clique, and they watch and learn from the older rams.
With each crop of lambs at our farm, we choose two of the best-looking ram lambs to be the next year’s breeders. At 1 year and 7 months, we make a final decision on who will be the lucky ram. At this point, many of our rams meet or exceed 30 inches.
On October 1st, we put the best-looking, best-horned ram in with the ewes, and the cycle begins again!
With this form of line breeding, you can tell that rams come and go, but a good ewe stays on the premises. We have had two ewes here who lived to 14 years, dropped a lamb, weaned it, and then passed on. You will change breeding rams regularly, but a good ewe will stay and provide you with beautiful lambs year after year. This is why our ewe prices are up there; we strive for quality!