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UW hosts lambing facility webinar

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In an effort to help sheep producers around the state prepare for lambs to hit the ground, the newly-established University of Wyoming (UW) Extension Sheep Task Force hosted a webinar to discuss innovations in the lambing barn on April 23. 

“The sheep task force really grew out of a need for statewide education,” explains Johnson County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator Micah Most, who moderated the webinar. “We started coming together and doing work last summer, then we hosted an in-person gathering in October.” 

The goal of the task force, according to Most, is to bring research-based evidence collected at the university level to people on the ground who make real-life decisions. 

“We are working collaboratively across our different spaces to ultimately serve sheep producers in Wyoming and beyond,” he adds. 

The task force’s webinar featured Regan Smith of Smith Sheep ‘N’ Stuff, as well as Kristin and Cord Bieber of Bieber Land and Livestock and Skull Creek Targhee. 

Innovation in the lambing barn 

To start, Smith shares his experience setting up a new lambing facility and ventilation system on his diversified farming and livestock operation in Powell. 

He notes after purchasing a second farm with a large 60 by 160 feet shop for his machinery, he was able to turn his original steel shop into a lambing shed. 

Using the Dubois Sheep Station for inspiration, Smith installed full sets of windows to increase natural light, paid to have the building insulated, replaced the original sliding shop doors with insulated overhead doors, put in a gas heater and created a unique ventilation system using repurposed materials. 

He points out one of the most notable features of the Dubois facility were four big fans used to circulate air – two blowing air in and two blowing air out. However, unlike most places which place their fans in the top of their building, the fans at the Dubois Sheep Station are positioned to remove cold, wet air off of the ground instead. 

“It made perfect sense, and they said it made a tremendous difference in the humidity of their barn,” Smith says.

After making rough calculations, consulting with local experts and enlisting some help, Smith created his own ventilation system with the same goal in mind. 

“We literally just rolled tin into a tube, and then my son and another hired hand would screw a piece of wood in there,” he explains. “The first year, we ran those tubes on the outside of the walls, but the next year we had a little more time so we ran them down the center.” 

Smith notes because he used mostly repurposed materials, the cost of construction was fairly low. He also points out, although he doesn’t have any data to prove it, he has noticed a positive difference in his lambing environment. 

“I don’t have facts and figures to show it, but the air quality is immensely better,” he says. “It is just drier and healthier in there all the way around.” 

Utilizing lambing shed technology

To follow, UW Extension Sheep Specialist Whit Stewart welcomes the Biebers, fourth generation ranchers in Eastern Montana who run a mix of registered and commercial Targhees in both shed-lambing and range-lambing systems. 

Stewart nods to the coupleʼs brilliant use of data collection and technology on their operation. 

“I can speak to their ingenuity and adoption of technology, their ability to look at things through a critical eye, their allocation of labor and time and using technology to work for them,” he states. 

Kristin points out collecting data is a huge priority on their ranch, and their data is collected through the National Sheep Improvement Program, utilizing electronic identification (EID) tags and a Shearwell Data Livestock System.

“It started with the registered animals and transitioned into the commercial side as well,” she shares. “We take data on everything.” 

One of the most important data points they collect, according to Cord, is how many lambs they expect each year, as this information not only lets them know how big of a paycheck to expect in the fall, it also helps them make real-time, day-to-day decisions. 

Kristin explains since they are short on labor, if they know are going to have a higher lambing percentage, more multiples or a higher percentage of first-time lambers they know they need to set up more jugs at lambing time in advance. On years they have a lower lambing percentage, they set up less jugs and more mixing pens. 

After ewes are sheared and scanned, Cord and Kristin paint brand their ewes prior to branding and mark ewes with their expected number of lambs to help keeps pairs straight. 

“This way, when a ewe starts lambing we have an idea of what to expect,” says Kristin. “On the flip side, if we are out at 2 a.m. and there is a pile of lambs, we have a pretty good idea of which ewes are supposed to end up with singles or multiples.” 

“Having ewes pre-branded makes things go much faster so we don’t have to worry about handling the ewe in the jug at all – we only worry about the lambs,” she adds. 

Additionally, the couple notes with the Shearwell system, they are able to weigh everything and use this information to identify the top and bottom end of their ewes based on percentage of body weight weaned. 

By sorting off ewes who consistently left the lambing barn with twins but only brought home one dinky lamb, the Biebers were able to eliminate most of the poor-performing lambs in their flock. 

“Another nice thing I can do with the stock recorder and EID tags is I can ask the system to do very particular sorts,” explains Kristin. “For instance, if I am looking for daughters of ewes that had and weaned twins three years in a row, I can do the sort without having to go back through and mark things up. I just have their IDs in a specific management group and I tell the program to sort them right.” 

“It has been a real nice change for us and has definitely helped with accuracy and making informed management decisions,” she concludes. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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