Small Ruminant Winter Grazing Management

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

In our pasture for profit grazing schools, it is often said that mechanical harvest of stored forages is about three times more expensive as compared to livestock harvest of forage in a managed grazing system. From this perspective, winter grazing offers an opportunity to improve the bottom line of pasture-based livestock production. The keys to making winter grazing successful depend upon planning ahead to make forage available for grazing, know the nutrient content of forages grazed as well as the nutrient requirements of the grazing animal, and some cooperation from Mother Nature along the way.

In general, winter grazing involves using either Continue reading

Basic Nutrition of Small Ruminants

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture – Cooperative Extension Service
(Previously published on the U of A Division of Agriculture Research & Extension web page)

Feed is the single largest cost associated with raising small ruminants, typically accounting for 60% or more of total production costs. It goes without saying that nutrition exerts a very large influence on flock reproduction, milk production, and lamb and kid growth. Late-gestation and lactation are the most critical periods for ewe and doe nutrition, with lactation placing the highest nutritional demands on ewes/does. Nutrition level largely determines growth rate in lambs and kids. Lambs and kids with higher growth potential have higher nutritional needs, especially with regards to protein. Animals receiving inadequate diets are more prone to disease and will fail to reach their genetic potential.

Small ruminants require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. Energy (calories) is usually the most limiting nutrient, whereas protein is Continue reading

Small Ruminant Housing: Proper Airflow is Important

Chelsea Hill, Livestock/4-H Educator, Penn State Extension
(Previously published on the Penn State Extension web page: December 5, 2018)

(Image Source: Penn State Extension)

When winter and cold weather arrive goats and sheep spend more time indoors. With this change in management comes needed attention to airflow and adequate ventilation of animal housing.

During different parts of the year producers have many creative and practical solutions to animal housing. Living in Pennsylvania, winter is the focal point for producers to pay maximum attention to housing details. During this time is when animals are moved to a more confined housing situation, with limited access to a dry lot for exercise. In consideration of that fact, it’s important to not only consider if there is enough floor space, bunk space, feeding space, and lighting, but also if there will be adequate ventilation. Continue reading

Key Points on Sheep and Goat ID

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS)

Owner/Hauler Statements
On March 25, 2019, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) updated its scrapie regulations and program standards through the publication of a Final Rule in the Federal Register and the Scrapie Eradication Program Standards, Volume 1, which included updating identification requirements for goats and certain record keeping requirements for sheep and goats. These rules apply to sheep or goats that are moving or have moved in interstate commerce, that have resided on premises where interstate commerce is conducted, or that are owned by people who engage in interstate commerce. This includes animals moved though markets or other sites where interstate commerce occurs even if the particular animal has not left the state.

Official identification is now required for Continue reading

Sharpen your Shepherding Skills with Bred Ewe Lambs!

Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Marion County

As we approach the end of the typical breeding season here in Ohio, there is still a group of sheep that shepherds may consider breeding prior to the coming of the new year. Depending upon who you ask, it seems like everyone has their own opinion on breeding ewe lambs. If you recall the article from Susan Schoenian that we shared last year, To Breed or Not to Breed, Susan explains that breeding young stock allow you and your operation to exploit reproductive and genetic potential. In the same breath, do note that breeding young females may also result in some production inefficiencies such as reduced milk production and potentially dystocia issues where it may require more labor from a management standpoint. Of course its nice to breed during the latter portion of the breeding season as this allows for your ewe lambs to be more mature at the time of breeding in addition to lambing these ewes down during the spring when hopefully the weather is more desirable to work in. Regardless of your situation, it may be worth taking a look into breeding your ewe lambs yet this year. Below, Tim Barnes has provided us with a quick list of points to consider when breeding ewe lambs. Continue reading

Feeding Sheep Whole or Processed Grains

Christoph Wand – Beef Cattle, Sheep and Goat Nutritionist/OMAF
(Previously published on Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)

What is the proper way to feed grain – whole or processed?. It depends on many factors such as the age (or weight) of the animal, the grain source and overall diet. Before getting to some usable rules of thumb, here is some background on why processing matters, and some general theory.

What is processing?
‘Processing’ means milling or rolling grain. It is also inferred by cracking, grinding, hammer-milling and so on. Generally, it can be assumed that processing adds about $10 per ton to the diet cost, due to labor, power use and machinery upkeep.

Sheep are ruminant animals; they are designed to Continue reading

Pasteurella and Mannheimia Pneumonias in Sheep and Goats

Philip R. Scott , BVM&S, MPhil, DVM&S, DSHP, DECBHM, FHEA, FRCVS, University of Edinburgh
(Previously published online with the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual)

(Image Source: National Animal Disease Information Source)

With the abrupt change in weather we have experienced lately, issues especially with pneumonia are expected to occur. Although you may only experience a case or two on your operation throughout the year, it is important to understand the signs of this disease as well as the preventative measures that you can take in order to avoid or treat the issue when needed.

Bronchopneumonia caused by Pasteurella multocida or Mannheimia haemolytica has a cranioventral lung distribution and affects sheep and goats of all ages worldwide. It can be particularly devastating in young animals around weaning. It is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in

Continue reading

Nitrate and Oxalate Poisoning

Karin Neff, Andy Hulting, Mylen Bohle and David Hannaway, Oregon State University Extension Service
(Previously published on the Oregon State University Extension Service web page: Pests, Weeds, and Disease: April 2018)

(Image Source: Michigan State University Extension)

Plants absorb nitrates from the soil and metabolize them to form plant proteins. If plants absorb excess nitrates and are consumed by livestock before they are converted to proteins, nitrate poisoning can occur. Forage crops that are over fertilized before being harvested or grazed can be a common cause of nitrate poisoning. However, excess nitrate accumulation also occurs readily in some common pasture weeds. Nitrate concentration can vary widely among plants and growing conditions. Nitrates are highest in plants in mornings and evenings, and on cool, cloudy days (when plant metabolism is slower). Drought, fertilization and nutrient deficiency can result in nitrate accumulation in plant tissues. Highest concentrations occur generally in stems, rather than leaves, flowers or fruit/seed.

Continue reading

Copper Deficiency in Sheep and Cattle

Government of Western Australia
(Previously published online: Agriculture and Food, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)

Yes, you read the title correctly. Contrary to common belief, sheep do have a requirement for copper. Although their requirement for supplemental copper may be lower than other ruminant species, excluding this mineral from the ration of a sheep diet can result in serious health issues.

Copper is an essential trace element for animals needed for body, bone and wool growth, pigmentation, healthy nerve fibers, and white blood cell function.

There are two main causes of copper deficiency in sheep

Continue reading

Be Aware of Late-Season Potential Forage Toxicities

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2019-33)

Livestock owners feeding forage need to keep in mind potential for some forage toxicity issues late this season. Nitrate and prussic acid poisoning potential associated with drought stress or frost are the main concerns to be aware of, and these are primarily an issue with annual forages and several weed species, but nitrates can be an issue even in perennial forages when they are drought stressed. A few legumes species have an increased risk of causing bloat when grazed after a frost. Each of these risks is discussed in this article along with precautions to avoid them.

Nitrate Toxicity
Drought stressed forages can accumulate toxic levels of nitrates. This can occur in Continue reading

Consider Byproduct Feeds for Rations this Winter

Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties
(Previously published online with Ohio Farmer: October 3, 2019)

Feeds produced from byproducts can often provide an adequate amount of protein and energy.

The last two years made it challenging for many producers to find good-quality feed for livestock, let alone a good quantity. Spoilage and high costs for subpar hay and grain can be discouraging. Health issues associated with poor-quality feed may range from starvation-like symptoms due to the feed lacking nutritional value, to death from contamination.

Producers may want to consider supplementing other types of feeds into winter rations to make up for loss in Continue reading

Hay Quality Indicators

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

The drastic swing in temperatures from one day to the next last week should remind us all that it truly is autumn and that winter is coming. The challenges of the 2019 forage production season continue to add up. With drought conditions across the state for the past two months, what was too lush for too long, is now crunchy and brown. Some producers are already feeding hay to their livestock, some are hoping that the forage they have stockpiled for late-fall/winter grazing will pay off. Hopefully it will with a little rain.

We ended 2018 with the lowest stock of stored forages since 2012 and the fourth lowest in the past 70 years. I don’t think 2019 has been much help. Quality forage is in short supply and high demand. Which means all forage has increased in monetary value by the ton. Continue reading

Tips for Selling Sheep and Goats Through Public Livestock Auctions

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously shared on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

According to a 2001 NAHMS study, 56.8 percent of sheep operators sell their lambs through auction markets/sale barns. This percentage is probably higher in the Eastern U.S., where direct sales to packers and feeders are less common. For example, a 2003 study showed that 73.5 percent of West Virginia sheep producers market their lambs through livestock auctions. The percentages of goats sold at livestock auctions is probably similar, though a higher percentage of goats may be slaughtered on-farm.

There are many advantages to marketing livestock through a public livestock auction, sale barn, or stockyard. It is convenient and easy. There are usually regular weekly sales. Sometimes, there are special graded sales or sales that cater to the increased demand for sheep and goats prior to various religious holidays. Continue reading

Feeding and Managing Your Bred Ewe Lambs

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published with Penn State Extension: December 10, 2010)

(Image Source: Melanie Barkley, Penn State Extension)

Lifetime performance is an often-overlooked measurement in sheep.

Ewes that produce a lamb at a year of age should have a higher lifetime production than a ewe that lambs for the first time at two years of age. However, these young ewes are not only producing a lamb, they are also still growing. So, producers should manage these ewe lambs differently than mature ewes.

When selecting ewe lambs to breed, keep in mind that you will have better success if you start by selecting lambs that were born early in the season and from productive ewes. Lambs that were born earlier in the lambing season are more likely to be further along in their maturity and are thus more likely to conceive. As with any selection process, start with Continue reading