Lambing Season, New Mexico State University Farm Visit
It’s lambing season, Y’all!
I had a chance to do a farm visit with Dr. Jennifer Hernandez-Gifford, Associate Professor and Manager of the Westside Sheep Unit for New Mexico State University Animal and Range Science Department over Easter Weekend. This was a special visit as I have known Dr. Hernandez-Gifford for almost 15 years and am so glad she came back to NMSU to take over a VERY special place...
A Fond Past remembered
Dr. Hernandez-Gifford, or back then—Jennifer, was a graduate student over me while I was a research assistant for both the Westside Sheep Unit and Endocrinology Lab during my undergraduate degree at New Mexico State University. She and I were under the supervision of Dr. Dennis Hallford— a professor we loved dearly who recently passed away. Dr. Hallford was a fantastic professor and researcher. He cared for his students and mentored me for many years, even after my graduate education was completed in another department and area of study. It is so great to come back and watch Dr. Hernandez-Gifford continue his legacy and work to protect his Sheep Unit.
After finishing her Master's Degree, Dr. Hernandez-Gifford conducted post-doctoral research at Washington State University in the School of Molecular Biosciences and then moved on to an Associate teaching position at Oklahoma State University before coming back to New Mexico State University. She now teaches Anatomy and Physiology of Farm Animals as well as Endocrinology of Domestic Animals at the graduate level.
She also runs the Endocrinology Lab and the Westside Unit where she is currently researching, among other things, fertility rates in cycle synced ewes (producers want ewes to lamb more than one baby per lambing and it looks like syncing might cause twin rates to go down on the following cycle). The sheep in this unit are Rambouillet, a wool sheep, selected by Dr. Hollford for about 40 years before Dr. Hernandez-Gifford took over the unit in 2016. The lambs are sold after weaning in the summer and along with wool sales, help support the costs of running the sheep unit.
Lambing Season requirers the rancher/producer, or in this case professors and students, to check on the ewes and lambs a few times throughout the day. The person checking looks for any ewes or lambs in distress. Almost all ewes lamb on their own but occasionally some require assistance and even c-sections.
It is also critical to check on new lambs to ensure the lamb gets up and nurses. After birth, the ewe produces colostrum, a milk containing high levels of several nutrients and antibodies that are important for lamb health. It's important babies are up and nursing quickly and if not~ bottle feed accordingly. Bottle feeding is a fun and rewarding experience when raising sheep. Just google "bottle feeding lambs videos" and be prepared for absolute cuteness!
Dr. Hernandez-Gifford has two undergraduate assistants helping her with research and farm work this year. While on this farm visit the students were mucking stalls and bringing in lambs for tagging, tail docking, and shots.