Do Sheep Always Need Access to a Fluid Water Source?

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: December 16, 2016)

Knowing how much water grazing sheep need access to can help, especially during winter management.

Water is certainly an essential nutrient for life, and it is without question that all animals need water to survive and thrive. To be perfectly clear, I am not questioning whether or not sheep need water, but rather asking the question: When do sheep need supplemental, fluid water from a water source? This question has important implications for how sheep are managed, especially during winter.

The following conditions determine how much

Continue reading

Do Sheep Really Need Hay?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team
Dr. Ale Relling, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University
Clif Little
, OSU Extension Educator, Guernsey County

This question has been commonplace this year, especially with the inability of many producers to make hay at a reasonable time. However, this isn’t to say that there isn’t hay to be purchased, because there is, but rather that hay of acceptable quality at a reasonable price is nearly non-existent.

With this in mind, we challenge you to think about how generations before us fed low quality hay. It was simple right? Feed more of the lower quality material and allow the animals to choose which parts of the bale are the best. Then once they have eaten what they want, pitch the rest of it on the ground for bedding. This may be true, but what happens when we aren’t feeding enough of the ‘good stuff’? 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

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

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

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

How to Feed and Use Poor Quality Hay

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

Realities of hay produced in 2019:
Persistent and frequent rains not only led to delayed planting, but they also foiled the best-laid plans of sheep producers to take a timely first cut hay harvest. As a result, significant acres of first cut hay was baled in late June and even well into July. Overly mature is one way to describe this hay, but whatever the description, most producers recognize this hay is of poor quality. The big question many producers are facing now is how and when to best use this hay? Some have suggested the best use is bedding material. This is a valid consideration, particularly with high straw prices as hay has an absorbency factor (value used to describe the water holding capacity of a material) of 3.0, which is greater than that of wheat straw which sits at 2.1. It is important to note that the initial moisture content of these materials when tested was less than 10%. For those that Continue reading

For Sheep Producers, a Trace of Trace Minerals Worth a Pound of Cure

Whit Stewart, Extension Sheep Specialist, University of Wyoming
(Previously published in Barnyards & Backyards, July 2018)

As summer progresses and forage quality declines, we are quick to think of shortfalls in protein and energy in nutritional management yet tend to overlook micronutrients such as trace minerals. Even though these are required in relatively smaller quantities than protein and energy, they are essential for basic physiological functions and should be prioritized.

Essential macro minerals, including calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur make up major components of skeletal and nervous systems and are usually expressed as a percentage of the diet. In contrast, micro minerals, or trace minerals, are required Continue reading

Supplementation of Pasture-Raised Lambs Increases Animal Performance and Health

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

To capitalize on the niche market of grass-fed lamb products, have you ever considered placing a group of feeder lambs on pasture? The utilization of pastureland and the financial return from grass-fed products makes this type of production system profitable. However, grass-fed lamb production does not come without challenges. According to the USDA, in order for a product to be labeled as grass-fed, the animal must be fed solely forages, with the exclusion of its mother’s milk prior to weaning. From a production standpoint, this can be a difficult as research has shown that lambs finished on pasture take a longer period of time when compared to their counterparts fed grain. Lambs on pasture also face the challenge of parasitic infection. In an effort to decrease the effects of parasites and increase lamb body weight gain on pasture, producers may choose to supplement lambs while on pasture. However, supplementation of grain or grain by-products is not permitted by Continue reading

Planning Ahead: There is Still Time to produce Quality Feed for the Winter

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

We are starting to get an idea of how much stored feed we will have for the winter and in many circumstances, the quality will be low. Even if our livestock get plenty of hay this winter, the quality may be so low that the hay cannot meet their nutritional needs. There may need to be supplementation. We have a couple options: we can purchase supplements, utilize harvested crop residue, or we still grow some crops for fall and winter supplementation.

One product many producers buy is protein tubs. While the animals really like these products, it does not address their most pressing need: energy. The most commonly used product used to supply energy is corn. Adding some corn or Continue reading

Nutritional Flushing of Small Ruminants – Preparing for Fall Breeding

Washington State University Extension, Animal Agriculture
(Previously published on the WSU Extension Animal Agriculture page)

Introduction
Flushing isn’t just an aspect of indoor plumbing—it’s also part of a well-managed flock’s nutrition and reproduction program. This article will address the why’s and how’s of flushing sheep and goats.

Flushing Defined
What is flushing, anyway? The term describes a temporary but purposeful elevation in the plane of nutrition around breeding time. Its objective is to boost ovulation, conception, and embryo implantation rates. Flushing may also increase the proportion of females that exhibit estrus. Boosting these rates increases lambing and kidding rates by Continue reading

Feeding Long-fed Lambs: The Effect of Energy Source and Level, and Sex on Growth, Performance, and Carcass Characteristics of Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

If you recall from last week, Jaborek et al. (2017) investigated how feed source and amount of feed offered per feeding affected lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics. In that experiment, lambs were fed to live weights of 130 – 140 lbs. and were fed for approximately for 100 days. This system is representative of the Eastern US sheep production. However, this system does not apply to all producers. For those producers that decide to retain lambs for an extended period of time beyond this typical market size and condition, lets try to understand how the number of days on feed affects lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics summarizing a paper by Jaborek et al. (2018) that fed lambs for an additional length of time (218 days on feed total). Continue reading

Feeding Lambs: The Effect of Energy Source and Level, and Sex on Growth, Performance, and Carcass Characteristics of Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As the month of May comes to an end, there are two thoughts that come to mind. One, early born lambs raised indoors on grain are approaching market appropriate condition (live body weight and fat cover). Two, according to the Ethnic Holiday Calendar provided by the Maryland Small Ruminant program, Eid ul-Fitr (the Festival of Fasting Breaking for the Muslim faith) begins in two weeks. With this being said, shepherds with available lambs may consider selling their lambs in order to capitalize on the increased market value of lamb as a major ethnic holiday approaches just prior to the summer slump. However, marketing lambs towards this type of niche market can be challenging as some holiday dates continuously change from year to year. Although it is too late for this year to change your diets, feeding program, and management practices, it is important to consider what diet your lambs are being fed in order to achieve these marketing goals for the future. Therefore, in order to understand how sex, feed source, and amount of feed offered per feeding affects lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics, this week Jaborek et al. (2017) provides us with the data to do just that. Continue reading

Trace Mineral Deficiency

Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer, Agriculture Victoria, Wodonga
(Previously Published on Agriculture Victoria: Sheep Notes)

(Image Source: Jeff Cave – Sheep with Swayback)

Have you ever wondered whether your stock have a trace mineral deficiency?

Trace minerals such as copper, cobalt, selenium, and iodine are only required in small amounts but are still essential for optimal production, and for life. In contrast, macro-minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are required in larger amounts. Trace mineral deficiencies arise when the amount of the mineral in the food that is available for absorption by the animal through their gut is insufficient to meet their needs.

Growing animals have the highest demand for Continue reading

The Effects of Dietary Acidity and Sulfur on Feedlot Lamb Performance Fed Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Last week we featured the article “Benefits to Adding DDGS to Small Ruminant Diets” that outlined several research projects highlighting the benefits of adding dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) to sheep and goat diets. As bio-fuel production continues to be a viable industry, understanding how to efficiently and effectively utilize by-products from this industry will be key in livestock feeding profitability.

For those that took the time to view all the links provided in the text, you would have noticed that a couple of those projects were based here at The Ohio State University. Within the US Grains Council report, one summary in particular from Continue reading

Benefits of Adding DDGS to Small Ruminant Diets

Minnesota Bio-fuels Association
(Previously published on the Minnesota Bio-fuels Association webpage: March 1, 2017)

February was National Lamb Month! And we took this annual opportunity to highlight the benefits that DDGS continue to provide within the sheep industry.

A reminder that DDGS or (dried distillers grains with solubles) are a high protein animal feed and one of the co-products made during ethanol production. In Minnesota, every bushel of corn produces about 2.8 gallons of ethanol, 18 lbs. of DDGS and 1.5 lbs. of corn oil. In 2016, Minnesota produced 3.5 million tons of dried distiller’s grains.

The majority of the starch from corn is removed during the process of producing ethanol so the resulting DDGS co-product are a high-energy feed source of concentrated protein and high fiber. According to Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, DDGS contain 10 percent to 15 percent more energy than corn grain. Continue reading

Fact Sheet: Late Gestation/Early Lactation Ewe Nutrition

Dr. Reid Redden, Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Reviewed by: Dr. Dan Morrical, Sheep Extension Specialist, Iowa State University
(Previously published online as a Let’s Grow Fact Sheet)

Although it may be a bit late this year to change your ewe feeding and management programs, I still find it important to share as you observe your flock this year. Are your ewes in a good body condition score? If not, what could you have done differently to improve? Supported by the Let’s Grow program through the American Sheep Industry, Dr’s Reid Redden and Dan Morrical provide us with some helpful tips to keep our ewes in good shape to prepare for late gestation and early lactation.

Improper nutrition during the last month of gestation and early lactation can have devastating effects on lamb survival and productivity. Most of which occur when ewes are in a poor body-condition score (BCS) entering the last trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, ewe-feeding strategies to maintain productivity and survival of lambs starts well before this critical time period.

Late Gestation Facts: Continue reading

Effects of Dietary Fat in Lamb Feeding Diets

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

If you recall from an article published earlier this month, Dr. Relling and his lab investigated the effects of supplementing fat to gestating ewes. Dr. Relling’s lab compared the supplementation of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s – calcium salts of palm oil) to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s – eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids) on the performance of lambs who’s dam were fed these fatty acids. Through their experiments, Dr. Relling’s lab demonstrated that lambs reared from ewes supplemented with PUFA’s had greater weight gains and therefore a greater economical value when compared to lambs reared from ewes supplemented with MUFA’s.

In taking these points into consideration, producers may Continue reading

Can Restricting Feed Intake Benefit your Lamb Feeding Program?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

With lambing season upon us, many are concentrated on getting lambs on the ground and getting them off to a good start. Although this is an extremely important step in the continual management of your flock, we must also be thinking one-step ahead. By this I mean, what will be your feeding strategy after your lambs are weaned a few months from now. Some producers may decide to sell their lambs as feeders directly after weaning, but for those that decide to retain their lambs and feed them out, how will your lambs be fed? What will your diet be composed of and will you be providing the diet at ad-libitum or at a restricted intake? Thinking about this, have you ever considered how the feeding strategy you choose could affect the feed efficiency and performance of your growing lambs? If you haven’t, no worries. Thankfully, Murphy and others (1994) did just this to Continue reading

Feeding Fat to Pregnant Ewes

Dr. Ale Relling, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Should we feed fats to pregnant ewes?

This question is being posed in order to summarize what was presented on December 1, 2018 at the Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium on feeding fats to pregnant ewes. Before I enter into the details of the results and economic implications, I would like to clarify two things. First, we must consider ruminant physiology and applicability, noting that the sources of fats/lipids used are commercially available products. Second, the goal of all studies were not to improve or change ewe physiology, but to evaluate the effect of feeding fats during gestation and the impact that they had on the offspring. Continue reading

Winter Feeding of Small Ruminants

Dr. Chelsey Ahrens, Specialty Livestock/Youth Education Specialist, Arkansas Extension
(Previously published as a fact sheet with the Division of Agriculture, Research & Extension, University of Arkansas)

Winter Feeding of Sheep and Goats: General Rules of Thumb for Gestating and Lactating Females

Knowing the nutritional requirements of females during the various stages of production allows producers to ensure females are performing at optimal levels. Since females are typically in late gestation and/or lactating during the winter months, when their nutritional needs are the highest, it is even more important to ensure the females are obtaining the proper roughages and/or grains in their diets. Below are Continue reading

Colostrum is Key

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: February 12,2013)

(Image Source: Premier1Supplies)

Colostrum is the key to raising healthy goat kids and lambs.

Ensuring goat kids and lambs get enough colostrum at birth is imperative to getting them off to a good start.

One of the most important functions of colostrum (first milk) is to provide kids and lambs with antibodies (immunoglobulins) that provide passive immunity for the first two months of life. Newborn lambs and kids, like other mammals, are born with no antibodies of their own and rely on those provided by the mother in colostrum for protection.

Protection provided by Continue reading

Creep Feeding Primer

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

(Image Source: Susan Schoenian, Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Creep feeding is a means of providing supplemental nutrition to nursing lambs and kids. It is accomplished by giving lambs and kids access to extra feed or better pasture, while excluding their dams.

Lambs and kids that are born in the winter months are often creep fed, since pasture is usually not readily available. Show animals are typically creep fed, in order to get them bigger for show.

Creep feeding is recommended for accelerated lambing and kidding programs, in flocks and herds where there are a lot of multiple births, and anytime milk production is a limiting factor. Artificially-reared lambs and kids should be creep fed to facilitate early weaning. Creep feeding is also advisable when Continue reading

Listeriosis Control and Prevention

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: November 28,2018)

Listeriosis is a disease that can affect all ruminants, as well as other animal species and humans.

Listeriosis is an important infectious disease of sheep and goats. It most commonly causes encephalitis but is also capable of causing blood infections and abortion.

Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes and is commonly seen in cooler climates. These bacteria can be found in the soil, food sources and even the feces of healthy animals. Most commonly, this disease of sheep and goats is observed as a result of feeding moldy or spoiled hay or silage. It’s possible for sheep and goats to become infected without feeding moldy or spoiled hay or silage, as it is also found in the environment. The bacteria are very hardy and are common in soil.

Possible locations of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria: Continue reading

Pregnancy Toxemia (a.k.a. Ketosis)

Dr. Susan Kerr, WSU NW Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist
(Previously published on Oregon State University Small Farms page)

Pregnancy Ketosis

New producers of small ruminants often learn about pregnancy ketosis first time the hard way—with a dead dam, fetuses or both. This article explains the causes of pregnancy ketosis (a.k.a. toxemia) and more importantly—how to prevent it.

This ewe had milk fever, but advanced pregnancy ketosis would present similarly: a down and depressed animal with poor appetite. Lack of complete recovery after calcium treatment and results of ketone tests would help differentiate these two conditions. Also, milk fever usually occurs after lambing and pregnancy ketosis before. Photo courtesy Susan Schoenian, University of Maryland Extension.

(Image Source: Oregon State University Small Farms page)

Sheep and goat fetuses add 70% of their final birth weight in the last six to eight weeks of gestation. A singleton increases a dam’s nutritional requirements by 1.5 to 2 times maintenance in the last trimester. Multiple fetuses greatly increase energy demands on their mother: twins require 1.75 to 2.5 times maintenance requirements and triplets demand up to 3 times maintenance. Twins and triplets are common in some breeds of sheep and goats; quadruplets and even more are not uncommon in Boer goats, Finnsheep and Romanov sheep. Continue reading

Livestock Winter Hay Needs

Dr. Susan Kerr, Washington State University, Northwest Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist
(Previously published on the Oregon State University Small Farms Page)

Livestock producers can often realize feed cost savings by purchasing their entire winter hay supply at one time. Obtaining an entire feeding season supply from a new hay crop certainly beats underestimating needs and having to cobble together purchases of more hay in late winter, when demand may outstrip supply and quality may be variable. There are four critical aspects of large hay purchases: knowledge of how much to purchase, adequate storage capacity, ability to work with the hay producer’s schedule and capital to make the purchase.

A few simple calculations can help livestock producers estimate how much hay they will need to get them through the winter. Estimates are based on Continue reading

Ewe Winter Feeding Systems, the Long Term Effects on Lamb Performance

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As we approach the winter months, I find it timely to discuss what types of feedstuffs are available to feed gestating ewes. Last fall I published a summary from Radunz and others (2011) that covered the effects of winter feeding systems on ewe performance which can be found by clicking this link. For those not able to access the link, three different diets were fed to gestating ewes during the last 90 days of gestation which consisted of either forage (haylage), grain (limit fed corn), or by-products (limit fed dried distillers grains). After birth, all ewes were fed the same lactation diet.

From an economic perspective, feeding by-products proved to be roughly $0.01/head/day cheaper than Continue reading

Feeding Strategies to Increase Lamb Performance, Carcass Characteristics, and Consumer Acceptability

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For most producers, maintaining high standards
of animal welfare and increasing production efficiencies rank among the most important factors involved in livestock production. While focusing on production efficiencies, what can producers do in order to help make their livestock more efficient? We know that excess fat on the carcass of an animal is considered inefficient as excess fat will be trimmed off, disposed of during the fabrication process, and does not contribute to final lean yield. In the case of lamb, excess fat can be a challenge as fat is associated with flavor and in turn the overall acceptability of the product. In order to produce a product that is acceptable for consumers from both a flavor and palatability standpoint, producers have access to different management strategies that can be implemented in order to change the performance and carcass characteristics of fed lambs. In order to determine Continue reading

Are Your Sheep Consuming Enough Calcium?

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(Previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

(Image Source: Ketcham’s Sheep Equipment)

Minerals are essential to support skeletal and nervous system functions. But, have you balanced your current mineral program lately with the forages and other feeds that your sheep are consuming?Top of Form

Most forages and a good quality mineral mix meet nutritional requirements of mature ewes. But, ewes will need additional mineral supplements, particularly during the last third of gestation.

The only way to truly evaluate a mineral program is to start with testing forages and other feeds consumed by the sheep. Assess nutrient levels using Continue reading

An Alternative Use for Wool

Tim Lundeen, Feedstuffs editor
(Previously published in Feedstuffs, Nutrition and Health: August 17, 2018)

Wool may offer dietary protein source.

Wool protein hydrolysates offer promise as functional ingredient in pet foods as well as other foods and feeds.

Developing new products from available resources often requires scientists to think differently, and such new products can offer new revenue streams for animal agriculture sectors.

Researchers with New Zealand’s AgResearch have discovered that proteins from wool can be added to the diets of animals to improve their health, opening up a new market for the sheep industry. Continue reading

Adding Distillers Grain and Soy Hulls to Sheep Diets

Jeff Held, SDSU Sheep Extension Specialists
(Previously published as an Extension Extra: South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service)

Feeding Soy Hulls and Dried Distillers Grain with Solubles to Sheep

Co-products from corn and soybean processing industries can be excellent sources of nutrients for livestock. With the growth of ethanol production from corn and increasing number of soybeans processed in the Upper Midwest, livestock producers have many nutrient-dense co-product feed resources readily available. In the Upper Midwest distillers dried grain with solubles (DDGS) derived from ethanol production and soybean hulls (SH) from soybean processing have created the greatest interest to sheep producers.

Interestingly these co-products are both high fiber-low starch in content, much like forages. Yet DDGS is classified as a protein feed and SH could be classified as an energy feedstuff.

As often found with co-product feed ingredients, these have unique nutrient profiles and physical characteristics that require attention when formulating diets. They often can serve multiple roles in diet formulation: Continue reading

Using Hay to Meet Sheep Nutritional Needs

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County
(Previously published in: A Guide to Katahdin Hair Sheep)

Sheep are ruminants, so outside of a feedlot situation the majority, if not all, of their nutrient requirements should be met from forages. For most sheep owners, this means that hay is an important component of the ration through at least the winter months and possibly even longer, including times of pasture shortages due to drought or poor forage stands. There are two critical questions to answer when using hay to meet sheep nutritional needs:

  • What is the nutrient content and quality of the hay?
  • What are the nutrient requirements of the sheep?

The number one factor affecting the quality and nutrient content of hay is Continue reading

Energy Intake and Protein Concentration Effects Lamb Performance and Visceral Organ Mass

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As summer approaches, I can’t help but to think about the upcoming breeding sheep show season, when will Mother Nature let us to make our first cutting of hay in southeastern Ohio, and the number of lambs that are on feed in the state of Ohio. For those producers that are feeding out lambs, I have a few management questions to ask. Currently, how are you feeding your lambs? Are your lamb’s offered ad libitum access to feed all day or are you feeding your group of lambs at a specific rate (i.e. percent of body weight)? When formulating your rations, how are you determining the percent protein needed in your lamb diets? Are you feeding Continue reading

The Effects of Finishing Diet and Weight on Lamb Performance, Carcass Characteristics, and Flavor

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The beauty of the small ruminant industry is that producers are able to capitalize on niche markets that surround religious holidays. Unfortunately, it is clear that the price of lambs at the sale barn has dropped as seen in recent market reports, with the conclusion of Christian and Orthodox Easter’s as well as Passover. Checking the calendar, it appears that we are approaching both Ramadan (month of fasting beginning May 6) and Eid al-Fitr (June 5-7). The occurrence of these religious holidays may allow for the lamb market to see an increase in market prices, but many fall and winter born lambs in the eastern US will also be entering the market as they approach finishing weights and in turn may flood the market. Therefore, as a producer, it is important to have a marketing plan in mind when making breeding decisions for proper lambing dates.

Aside from religious holidays, lamb Continue reading

With Sheep, The Cheapest Mineral Isn’t

Dr. Francis Fluharty, Research Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Regardless of the animals stage of production or time of year, Dr. Fluharty reminds us that mineral supplementation is important! Although mineral

(Image Source: Back Yard Herds)

can be quite costly initially, Dr. Fluharty outlines the risks and production losses associated with the lack of mineral supplementation.

The major nutritional requirements are: water, energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In many cases, sheep producers do a good job of providing adequate water, energy, and protein. However, many sheep producers buy ‘cheap’ minerals, ignoring the fact that the availability of the minerals in the oxide form is low. In many of these mixes, only 10-20% are Continue reading

What Accounts for Variability in Grain Protein Levels in Corn?

Alexander Lindsey, OSU Assistant Professor, Horticulture and Crop Science
Stan Smith, OSU Extension Program Assistant, Fairfield County
Peter Thomison, OSU Extension, Corn Specialist
(previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2018-01)

(Image Source: C.O.R.N. Newsletter)

We’ve recently heard comments and questions concerning the varying levels of grain protein levels being found in shelled corn. Some feed companies have reported seeing many samples in the upper 6% and lower 7% protein range this year but there are reports of levels that are nearly 9%. Some feed mill operations are using 7% as the default value based on this year and last year’s levels. However, in the past, higher grain protein levels (% +2) have been cited for corn. Are the reports of low levels in 2016 and 2017 an anomaly? What could be accounting for these varying protein levels in corn?

Environmental conditions (esp. those affecting soil moisture), cultural practices (nitrogen fertilization, plant population, drainage) and hybrids genetics all influence grain protein. Production factors and favorable growing conditions that Continue reading

How do Finishing Diet Combinations Affect Lamb Performance and Tissue Growth?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For those shepherds in the state of Ohio that retain their lambs and finish to a market weight, a high concentrate finishing diet is commonly used. High concentrate diets are favored by producers as these types of diets allow producers to raise their lambs indoors away from predators, at a low cost when grain prices are low, and allow their lambs to reach a market ready weight at an earlier time point when compared to forage fed lambs. However, in today’s market, the production of grass-fed meat products receives a premium. Therefore, in order to capitalize on these premiums, some producers may choose to produce grass fed or pasture raised lamb.

When switching to alternative backgrounding and finishing diets, it is important to understand Continue reading

What Finishing Diet Should I Feed my Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Do lambs perform and hang better carcasses when grazed on grasses, legumes, or fed an all concentrate diet?

Before to asking these questions, producers must first determine the goal of their operation. Resources such as land, labor, time, and money all play a critical role in the daily management of an operation. In today’s society, there are two types of consumers. Those that want access to quality protein sources at low prices, and those that are willing to pay a premium for specialty products (i.e. grass-fed lamb). When grain prices are low, it may be more economical for producers to finish lambs on grain. However, in order to reach a premium through specialty markets, producers may choose to finish their lambs on pasture. Regardless of which finishing strategy is chosen, producers need to understand both Continue reading

How Does Harvest Weight and Diet Affect Carcass Characteristics?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The most common method for finishing lambs in the United States is the use of a high concentrate diet. Although high concentrate diets allow for lambs to be finished at a younger age, one down fall of this feeding strategy is that lambs may to accumulate an excessive amount of carcass fat. An alternative method to finish lambs would be the use of pasture. Forage fed lambs develop less carcass fat, but require a longer period of time to finish and are harvested at an older age when compared to concentrate fed lambs. In order to determine which feeding strategy will yield the greatest amount of marketable product, a comparison of light and heavy weight lambs on two different diets has been summarized.

In order to make this comparison, lambs were harvested Continue reading

What Benefits are Gained by Processing Grain Fed to Sheep?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

How does corn processing and fiber source affect feedlot lamb performance, diet digestibility, nitrogen metabolism?

(Image source: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)

Behaviorally, sheep and cattle are very different, especially in the way they eat. Sheep are more selective in their eating pattern and spend more time physically chewing and breaking down their feed than cattle do.

Regardless of the animal we are feeding, it is common practice in the livestock feed industry to process the grains fed to our animals. An issue with feeding processed grain is that due to an increase in surface area, the starches in grain become more readily available for the animal to digest. As a result, an increase in digestion may lead to metabolic issues such as acidosis in our ruminant species.

Therefore, a question of interest that arises is can sheep be fed unprocessed grains without Continue reading

The Future of Finishing Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Can the implementation of growth promotants or forage grazed finishing diets increase lean muscle gain in lambs without increasing carcass fat?

Marketing lambs at a high lean to fat carcass ratio is important in producing consistent and quality retail lamb products.

Lambs fed high concentrate diets finish at a younger age when compared to forage fed lambs. However, lambs fed high concentrate diets accumulate more carcass fat than lambs on grazed forage diets. The use of either growth promotants or forage finishing diets may provide producers with Continue reading