Lambing Season and Livestock Guardian Puppies

The Editorial Director of MOTHER EARTH NEWS marks the season by anticipating new life as lambing season aligns with a litter of livestock guardian puppies.

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by Hank Will

Mid-to-late winter is lambing season at our place. We could plan it for later, but it works for us in a number of ways, not the least of which is having lambs ready for the early season markets. More than that, however, is that mid-January is when the ewes typically begin lambing after being exposed to the rams all season. As humans, my wife and I enjoy not controlling everything, and lambing season helps us out of the doldrums that the short days of winter tend to send us into. Sure, it would be, or could be, easier for us to time lambing for slightly less dicey weather conditions, but early spring thunderstorms with high winds, torrential rain, and hail are tougher for newborn lambs than are cold temperatures — at least with our flocks.

This year, our lambing season coincided with new litters of livestock guardian dogs — ours are a cross between Anatolian shepherds and Great Pyrenees mountain dogs. These puppies are raised out in the lambing pasture from the day they open their eyes. They’re provided with a warm, secure shelter that makes a snug cave for them and their mom, and they’re surrounded by protective ewes and scores of frolicking lambs. In the process, the puppies learn the joys of cleaning up after the lamb births, and to value both ewes and lambs. Together, the lambs and puppies learn to respect one another and the electric fence (and fences in general). We get to experience the warming joy of watching it all unfold again. As the lambs and puppies grow up together, they form an unlikely bond: Lambs rely on the dogs for protection from coyotes, big cats, and other predators, and the dogs rely on the lambs for a job. Working dogs with jobs are happy dogs.

The lambs and the puppies are part of the rhythm at our ranch. In time, the experienced guardian dogs will be sold to others needing their services, and the lambs will help other folks start their own flocks, or simply provide them with food. Though we hate to see them go, we know they’re part of our own annual cycle. And each year, as the nights grow ever longer and the winter solstice approaches, we can once again anticipate the joys of lambing season.

If you rely on cycles to mark the seasons, or to keep you keeping on when seasonal depression hits, I’d love to hear about it. Or, if you have any spectacular plans to celebrate Earth Day this year, please let me know about them. Send me an email at

See you in June,