Sharpen Your Shepherding Skills with Bred Ewe Lambs!


  • Ewe lambs need to be 70% of their mature body weight prior to breeding.
  • Ewe lambs have a shorter breeding season than older ewes. Ewe lambs born earlier in the year cycle earlier due to their larger body weight and maturity.
  • Select feed rations correctly! Pregnant ewe lambs are still growing and have higher nutritional requirements than older ewes. During early and mid-pregnancy ewe lambs, need 17-20% more quality feed than older ewes?
  • Make sure the ewe lambs are at their optimum body condition score 3-6 weeks before lambing.
  • Do not overfeed before lambing. Ewe lambs require a balanced diet for maintenance and pregnancy not growth. Over feeding will create large single lambs with possible lambing difficulties.
  • Avoid multiple births – do not over feed up to and during mating.
  • You should pregnancy check at eight weeks after breeding to identify ewes carrying multiple births and to identify open ewes.
  • Group separately ewes with multiple lambs.
  • General pregnancy results for young ewes: single 69%, twins 19%, & triplets .5%.
  • Lambing will greatly affect the body condition (one=thin five=Fat) and future performance plus growth rate of the ewe lamb.
  • Ewes lambing later and then weaning later may require additional body condition recovery time.
  • Continue to manage young ewes after weaning to ensure timely breeding results in the following breeding season.


Be cautious of your decision to breed ewe lambs if your flock has a history lambing difficulties with assisted births and cesarean sections.

Carcass Results from Breed Champion Lambs at 2019 Ohio State Fair

This video shows the carcass data from the eighteen breed champion and reserve champion lambs exhibited in the junior market lamb show at the 2019 Ohio State Fair.

Thank you to the Ohio State University Meat Lab and Dr Steve Moeller for harvesting and ranking the carcasses.  Data from the Open and the Junior Division Champions & Reserve  Champions is listed for information only.

Wool Breed Judges Resources

These presentations are from the 2019 Wool Judge Workshop held at Ohio State University Extension Marion County on March 9, 2019.

The program is designed to provide resources to individuals who judge wool breeds of sheep in shows throughout the county.

  1. “The wool fiber and its applications” produced by Dr Geoff Naylor and the Australian Wool Textile Training Center
  2. “Why Raise Wool Breed Sheep” presented by Dave Cook, sheep producer, show judge, and sheep educator.
    1. 02.1-The-Wool-Fibre-and-its-Applications-Presentation-1754zli

Water and Animals

When the ambient outdoor temperature is below freezing during winter or scorching hot in summer, we must acknowledge and remember that water is necessary for livestock production. More importantly, it’s necessary for life. This may seem like common sense to you, and I hope it does, because it suggests that you recognize its importance. Without water we have no livestock production. Without water we have no life. It’s as simple and complex as that. After all, water is mandatory for the maintenance and regulation of body temperature (throw it back to BIO101 and think “homeostasis”). It’s an immensely important factor in growth, development, and lactation. And it’s imperative for digestive processes, reproduction, excretion, and metabolizing forages and feedstuffs, among many other biological processes.

Water is critical to so many different processes in the body that it’s even essential to eyesight. Let that sink in. It’s something we probably tend to not think about, but it’s true. I won’t delve into the multifaceted specifics of all of the biological processes that require water because they are many and I’d be writing a novel. However, we are responsible, nevertheless, for supplying water to our livestock that is sufficient and clean to set the stage for increased performance, which, in turn, results in increased production.

This leads us to the topic of water requirements, which are affected by a myriad of circumstances. The age, size, and species of animal, level of activity, dry matter/feed intake, ambient temperature, and water temperature are some of those factors. Gestation is another factor, one at the forefront and of great importance in a production setting. Although all water consumed by livestock doesn’t have to and won’t be provided in the form of drinking water, water still needs to be provided ad libitum, meaning “as desired.” Sure, water can be consumed by livestock via forages or feedstuffs that contain a lot of moisture (things like pasture, silage, etc.), but those sources of nutrition only satisfy a portion of animal water requirements. The rest of that requirement comes from intake by way of ad libitum access to water. In other words, animals voluntarily drinking water that they have free access to in order to satisfy their needs.

Here’s a general idea of just how much water some classes of livestock consume on a per day basis, but keep in mind that these values may vary:

  • Dry and bred cows: 6-15 gallons
  • Nursing cows: 11-18 gallons
  • Bulls: 7-19 gallons
  • Growing cattle: 4-15 gallons
  • Dairy cattle: 15-30 gallons
  • Sheep and goats: 2-3 gallons
  • Horses: 10-15 gallons

In addition to water requirements, it’s also imperative that we recognize the importance of water quality to livestock production. In simple terms, poor water quality (i.e. water containing debris, bacterial contamination, etc.) may lead to a reduction in water and feed consumption, which negatively affects animal health and culminates in a loss of production. It’s a domino effect.

Often times we’re able to detect poor water quality upon visual examination and/or sense of smell, but this is not always the case. Therefore, it’s a good practice for us as producers to have our water tested. For example, water that is murky in appearance and/or foul smelling could be a sign of contamination, but in order to pinpoint the potential contaminate(s), it needs to be investigated. Water in a farm pond that has a green film on top may be indicative of an algal bloom. Although not all algal blooms are toxic, it’s recommended that these water sources be avoided until sample analyses have been obtained.

Regarding livestock watering sources, we’ve historically used streams, ponds, and springs to provide water for our animals. While they may still be in use, well-pumped and gravity-fed systems are becoming more common. Ultimately, the type of system that works best for you will depend on your specific needs and situation. For those of us who must use streams, ponds, and springs, it’s ideal to provide animals points of access (versus access to the watering source in its entirety) for drinking purposes so that we not only minimize the potential for soil erosion and sedimentation, but also reduce the risk of contamination and threat to water quality. It’s a term we like to call “controlled direct access,” and it usually involves fencing and the construction of ramps to achieve limited access. While some major advantages of using these sources for providing water to livestock are reliability, low cost, and the fact that they aren’t dependent on power, they do come with their disadvantages — they require maintenance, may dry up during drought, and are still at risk of contamination due to accessibility by livestock. Well-pumped and gravity-fed watering systems are generally viewed as better alternatives to sources in which livestock have direct access because they employ complete exclusion of animals, thereby reducing the threat to water quality.

Overall, water that is clean and of good quality will lead to an increase in water and feed consumption, which positively affects animal health and results in an increase in livestock performance and production. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, so long as we’re keenly aware of water’s place in livestock production. And if you need another reminder, it’s always at the top of the list of importance.


Callie Burnett is a farm girl, animal scientist, and biologist whose heritage is deeply rooted in agriculture. She is an alumna of Clemson University with a Master of Science in Animal & Veterinary Sciences.  

Adding Distillers Grain and Soy Hulls to Sheep Diets

Adding Distillers Grain and Soy Hulls to Sheep Diets

August 14 2018

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: energy, protein, or forage. Many producers are simply unfamiliar with the effect of DDGS or SH on diet palatability, level of performance, cost effectiveness, and health status.

For sheep producers the key attractions of these feeds are cost effectiveness, animal performance, and reduced labor.

The key physical characteristic that offers diet formulation flexibility is the high fiber and low starch content. Both DDGS and SH are energy-dense feeds that can safely replace a portion of traditional forage or grain in diets, since the high fiber-low starch physical characteristics have lower rumen acidosis potential compared to grain-based diets.

Cost per pound of nutrient will influence their inclusion into sheep diets. Economically, DDGS is currently best suited to serve as a protein feed since it competes most favorably with traditional protein feeds like soybean meal. Pelleted SH can be an economical source of forage or serve as an energy feedstuff substituting for corn or barley. For nutrient content, see Table 1.

Using soybean hulls in sheep diets
Using pelleted SH for mature breeding ewes as a forage source has increased dramatically across the Upper Midwest during the past 5 years, especially in drought stricken areas.

Recommendations for SH use in ewe diets have been based on research at the SDSU sheep research unit where non-pregnant mature ewes were fed slightly above maintenance requirement by offering 4 lb of pelleted soybean hulls and 1 lb of long-stemmed alfalfa hay daily. Ewes were fed this diet for 60 days with no ill health, and ewe body weight change was a positive 0.1 lb per day. (In beef and dairy cattle studies, recommendations are to limit soybean hulls to 40% of dry matter intake due to concern for bloat.)

Studies with growing lambs fed SH based diets have reported excellent growth performance and palatability. Soy hulls stimulate intake; studies demonstrate that intake increases linearly with higher levels of soy hulls.

Although SH is a high fiber feedstuff, the rate and extent of fermentation in the rumen is rapid, leading to increased rate of passage; it is these features that contribute to increased feed intake. Growing lambs fed a diet containing 70% SH had a reported dry matter intake equivalent to 4.5% of animal body weight. Compared to more traditional corn based diets, lamb dry matter intake of SH is often increased by 0.5 to 1.0% of animal body weight.

Using DDGS in sheep diets
Ewe lactation studies using DDGS compared to soybean meal as a protein supplement show no difference in ewe body condition score or suckling lamb gain. A lactation study using DDGS to replace 2/3 of the grain (corn), equating to 25% of the diet, improved triplet- reared lamb growth performance by 12%. There was no difference in single and twin reared lambs.

Studies using DDGS in lamb growing-finishing diets are scarce. This lack of DDGS research could be related to current general lamb feeding practices: Lamb rations are generally offered ad-lib in self-feeders with maximum expected gain. Pelleted lamb protein supplements containing protein, minerals, vitamins, and feed additives are commonly used to reduce feed ingredient sorting and refusal.

However, the high cost of commercially manufactured lamb protein supplements has created producer interest in inclusion of DDGS and other co-products in lamb diets. Since the level of crude protein in DDGS is approximately 40% lower than in soybean meal (30 vs. 48% CP), the cost per unit of crude protein will need to favor DDGS to substitute for soybean meal in mixed lamb diets.

Even when the economics favor DDGS the high inclusion rate adds considerably more phosphorus to the diet, creating greater diet formulation challenges.

Editors Note: Please note that the values found in Table 2 are reflective of ingredient pricing when the article was first published in 2006.


Barnyard Blindness

Barnyard Blindness

By Tim Barnes

The next time you are on the internet, google “Barnyard Blindness”.   What did you find?  My experience has been there is no good answer.   It offers you sites for blind horses and barnyard festivals!

In an old Drovers Journal article, the author states:  “The definition of BARNYARD BLINDNESS is when everybody thinks that their critter is better than anyone else’s, but the real meaning is when a breeder cannot see the animals shortcomings and therefore, continues to produce subpar offspring.”

Daily, as I feed and water (garden hose – no automatic fountain), I observe the groups of our lambs, ewes, and rams.  Making sure all are up and about but also evaluating (in my mind) just how good they are in the big picture of the Shropshire & Tunis worlds.  I personally think I get a much more optimistic opinion in the morning than in the evening.  I do not know why, but I would guess the freshness of the new day is verified by the calm of the animals in the barn.  By evenings all those little problems start to add up, a hanger is broken on a feeder, ewe 1725 is limping, lamb 1840 is coughing, a light bulb is burnt out, etc.   So, I continually try to balance the good with the bad and never make big sheep decisions in the evening.

So how good are my sheep???  How can I compare them to the other flocks?  Let me say right here and now!  I have used EPDs and benchmarks for years in the swine industry and firmly believe they are an invaluable resource for herd improvement.  But the show sheep industry currently places little/no value in this type of data, so each of us must develop our own system to evaluate our sheep.

You can establish a baseline for your flock by visiting other breeders.  I am not sure why my mind works this way, but when I visit other flocks, I am always impressed with their sheep for the first few minutes.  My mind thinks their sheep are bigger, thicker, sounder, and longer.   But then reality and experience set in and my mind starts to calibrate the surroundings.  Soon after, I start to focus on the priority traits I am looking for, and then establish a balance between my sheep and the host flock.  Years ago in Oklahoma a breeder told me you can have your pick of my ewe lambs.  REALLY!  My problem was there were 150 head in a 100 acre pasture!  Needless to say that visit was a real eye opener!  Be flexible and ready for many new experiences on a farm visit!

FAT SELLS, FAT SELLS, FAT SELLS!!!  Learn quickly the difference between fat and muscle.  There are meat science videos, live sheep judging videos, feed management videos, and old experienced shepherds who can help you evaluate muscle and fat.  The vast majority of sheep judges today are profile judges (they place the animals from the side view), thus fat makes a narrow animal wide, a shallow animal deep and a small animal massive.

We are all BARNYARD BLIND to a certain degree.  We raise the type of sheep we like to look at.   The great breeders know a good one whether they are skinny or fat.  Embrace the challenge of breeding better sheep.  Learn, live, look and enjoy each moment in the barn.   Remember ”BARNYARD BLINDNESS” is a curable problem!


Dewormers – Are They An Extremely Valuable Non-Renewable Resources?                 April 25 2018

– Michelle Arnold, DVM (Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, UKVDL), University of Kentucky

A “non-renewable” resource is a resource with economic value that cannot be readily replaced on a level equal to its consumption. Petroleum and coal are two familiar examples of valuable non-renewable products used daily but known to exist in limited supply, and formation of new product takes billions of years. Dewormers, on the other hand, are products that can be purchased from almost any farm or veterinary supply store and online. There are many different kinds, fairly inexpensive, and seemingly effective at killing parasites in the digestive tract of cattle and certain types also control flies, ticks and lice. They come in many forms and can be delivered to cattle by mouth as a liquid, paste or in block form, by injection, or simply by pouring it down the topline. Given this situation, how could dewormers ever be classified as “extremely valuable non-renewable resources”? In a recent veterinary continuing education meeting at the UKVDL, Dr. Ray Kaplan, an internationally-known veterinary parasitologist from the University of Georgia, used that very phrase to describe the dewormers used every day in cattle operations.

Dr. Kaplan is considered a leading expert on the rapidly developing problem of “anthelmintic resistance” which means the dewormers available are losing their effectiveness in the field with no new products on the horizon to take their place. He explained that although new drug “classes” entered the market every decade from the 1950s to the 1980s, it has now been over 30 years since ivermectin was introduced in 1981. Basically ‘we have what we have’ which is 3 major chemical classes or families of dewormers known as the Benzimidazoles (SafeGuard®/Valbazen®/Synanthic®), the Macrocyclic Lactones (Ivomec®/ Cydectin®/ Eprinex® & LongRange®/Dectomax®) and the Imidazothiazoles/ Tetrahydropyrimidines (Rumatel®/ Strongid®/ Prohibit® or Levasol®). “Resistance” is the term used for the ability of a parasite to survive after treatment with a dewormer given at the right dose, at the right time and in the right species. What was once a sheep and goat problem is now a growing cattle concern. The first case in US cattle was reported in 2004 and serious problems are now recognized worldwide. Resistance is most common in Cooperia, but increasingly reported in Haemonchus, Ostertagia and Oesophagostomum. Resistance to chemical dewormers is caused by a slow buildup of “resistance genes” in parasites from repeated drug treatment over many years. These genes accumulate undetected over time until the point when so many resistant worms survive there is an obvious treatment failure. Resistant worms are not more aggressive or deadly but they simply survive in high numbers after deworming, causing disease. So why, if livestock has been raised for hundreds of years and dewormers have only been around for the last 50 of those, are such dramatic effects seen if drugs fail? Unfortunately, this reliance on chemical deworming has allowed selection of bulls and replacement females with high production numbers but ignored their genetic inability to resist parasite issues. As Dr. Kaplan explained, we have developed “wimpy” animals when it comes to fighting parasites. Additionally, chemical deworming has allowed neglect of husbandry and pasture management factors that keep worm burdens naturally low. For example, overstocking a pasture means more feces, more worm eggs and larvae after egg hatching, shorter grass and more parasites in animals. This is a management problem and not the fault of the animal or the dewormer.

Parasites are a normal part of the ecosystem and it is also normal for grazing animals to be infected with parasites. “Infection” in this sense means there are worms in the digestive tract and is not the same thing as “disease”. In cattle, “clinical disease” from parasites includes signs of diarrhea, anorexia (“off feed”), rough hair coat and, depending on the parasites involved, anemia (low number of red blood cells) and hypoproteinemia (low blood protein). However, the bigger concern is often “subclinical disease” where there are no overt signs of a problem yet there is actually decreased intake and decreased nutrient utilization resulting in severe reductions in weight gain. Most animals develop good protective immunity from parasites but this can only happen if the immune system gets stimulated by worms inside the animal (similar to how a vaccine works). Development of immunity to parasites largely depends on age of the animal. Calves under a year of age have poor immunity so clinical disease is possible and production losses are certain from Cooperia and Ostertagia without proper control. Two-year olds have moderate immunity so clinical disease is less of a problem but production losses likely without good control as more Ostertagia (the brown stomach worm) are active in this age group. Three-year olds and above have good immunity with little clinical disease and only slight production losses from parasites. This immunity can be maintained throughout their productive lifespan as long as nutrition is satisfactory. Those without good immunity formed early in life are at higher risk for disease. “Premunition” is the term used for this immunity that is stimulated by a resident population of worms and actually restricts the establishment of new worms. Treatment too often in young animals removes worms and eliminates the state of premunition.

How is it possible to know if dewormer resistance is a problem in a herd? The best way to test is a Fecal Egg Count Reduction Test (FECRT) based on the premise that dead worms don’t lay eggs. Fecal samples are taken from 20 animals before deworming then the same 20 are re-sampled in 2-3 weeks (depending on which dewormer was used). The number of parasite eggs should be reduced by >95% between pre- and post- treatment samples. If <90% reduction, resistance to that family of dewormers is certain. The test is best run in weaned animals under 16 months old and is not as reliable in adult cattle. Once parasites become resistant to a drug family, they never go back to being susceptible. For this reason, it is wise to do a FECRT on any newly purchased/leased breeding stock to avoid contamination of the farm with resistant parasites before allowing them to mix with the rest of the herd.

How can we slow the development of resistance to dewormers? Reducing unnecessary treatment with dewormers, making sure the dewormers used are effective, and strategic culling all contribute to fewer resistant genes in parasites. The following are Dr. Kaplan’s recommendations:

  1. Reduce treatment frequency and/or modify treatment strategies. In cattle, treat only 80, 90 or 95% of adult population of the herd, leaving heaviest and best-looking untreated. In practical terms, if you deworm twice a year (spring and late summer/early fall), limit the slick, fleshy cows to just one time per year. This leaves a proportion of the worm population untouched by a dewormer (including the worms in untreated animals and also any eggs and larvae on pasture at the time of treatment). Parasitologists refer to this proportion of worms unexposed to the chemical effects of the dewormer as “refugia”. The greater the proportion in refugia (protected or “in refuge” from chemicals), the slower the development of resistance. Unfortunately, the common recommendation for many years has been strategic parasite control by deworming when environmental contamination is at a minimum in the summer. This practice actually promotes resistance because very few worms are in refugia.
  2. Ensure the treatments we administer are very effective. Given the common state of dewormer resistance, use of drug combinations is essential. Combinations slow resistance because they kill more resistant worms! An example of this is using LongRange® injectable and using a drench dewormer (SafeGuard®/ Valbazen®/Synanthic®) at the same time. The purpose of the second drug is to kill any worms that survived the first drug, resulting in much fewer worms left to reproduce. Conversely, if drugs are underdosed or administered in a manner with reduced bioavailability or absorption, then partially resistant worms are more likely to survive and mate to produce fully resistant worms.
  3. Culling the “wormiest” animals. The 80/20 Rule is in effect when it comes to parasites in cattle. Approximately 20-30% of animals in the herd have 80% of the parasites. Culling the wormiest-looking animals removes a significant number of parasites and stops the passing of genetic “wimpy-ness to parasites” to their offspring.

In summary, it is impossible to eradicate parasites and, the harder we try, the faster resistance develops. The goal is not to eradicate parasites but to keep them at a level that does not cause detrimental health effects. Reliance on less chemical control and incorporating strategies based on our knowledge of parasites in the pasture (see box below) will help preserve the effectiveness of current dewormers. Viewed this way, dewormers meet the definition of “extremely valuable non-renewable resources.”