Ruminal Acidosis (Grain Overload)

Dr. Richard Bowen, Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University (Previously published online with Colorado State University, VIVO Pathophysiology)

The rumen encases a complex ecosystem containing numerous species of bacteria and protozoa that collectively provide the capacity for efficient fermentation of carbohydrates. Among the major products of such fermentation are volatile fatty acids and lactic acid. Wild ruminants and those raised on pasture consume a diet rich in grasses of one sort or another that consist mostly of cellulose. Cellulose is a molecule that might be called a “slowly fermentable carbohydrate”. In contrast, grains such as wheat, barley, and corn are considered “highly fermentable carbohydrates”, meaning that they can be very rapidly fermented to generate – you guessed it – large quantities of volatile fatty acids and lactic acid. Ruminal acidosis results from consumption of a unaccustomed quantity of highly fermentable carbohydrate, almost always well described as grain overload.

Ruminal acidosis is most commonly a disease of dairy and feedlot cattle, and occasionally sheep in feedlots. All of these animals are typically fed large quantities of grain, because such a diet promotes production of milk and enhances growth. The key point is that animals and their ruminal microbes must be adapted over time to a high grain diet, rather than being acutely changed to such feed, otherwise acidosis commonly ensues. In some cases, animals develop acute acidosis “accidentally”, when, for example, they escape from their pen and get into a store of grain.

 

 

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Flushing Small Ruminants for a Higher Ovulation Rate

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator (Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: August 6, 2018)

(Image Source: Sheep 101.info)

Increasing the level of nutrition for does and ewes 2-3 weeks prior to and 3 weeks into the breeding season can improve kid/lamb crop in some instances.

When managing a goat/sheep herd farmers are always looking for ways to improve their herd, increase production and raise profitability. One way that a farmer can accomplish this is to implement flushing into their breeding practices. Flushing is a temporary but purposeful increase in the level of nutrition around breeding time. This is done to boost ovulation, conception and embryo implantation rates. Flushing may also increase the proportion of females that exhibit estrus. Flushing can increase lambing and kidding rates by 10-20 percent. This is important because a flock’s lambing/kidding rate is one of the primary factors influencing profitability. Flushing works best in mature females, at the beginning and end of the breeding season and in out-of-season breeding programs. After the first month of gestation, the level of nutrition fed to bred ewes and does can then return to maintenance levels until late gestation, when fetal development begins to place significant demands on the dam.

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Avoid Heat Stress in Your Sheep and Goats

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: June 29, 2012)

Make sure your sheep and goats have access to plenty of clean fresh water on hot, humid days.

Extreme heat is stressful to livestock, as well as people. High temperatures are even more problematic in states like Michigan, because high temperatures are also often accompanied by high humidity. The heat index (temperature plus humidity) is a more accurate measure of heat stress than temperature alone.

Some livestock tolerate heat better than others. Sheep and goats tend to be less susceptible to heat stress than swine, cattle, llamas, and alpacas. However, goats tend to tolerate heat better than sheep. Goats with loose skin and floppy ears may be more heat tolerant than other goats. Angora goats have a decreased ability to respond to heat stress as compared to sheep and other breeds of goats.

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Prevent Parasites Through Grazing Management

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension (previously published with Penn State Extension: May 31, 2017)

Grazing management and genetic selection can help your flock minimize the impact of parasites.

Parasites continue to plague many sheep and goat producers throughout the grazing season. Internal parasites decrease growth rates and in high levels can even cause death. However, sheep and goat producers can follow several practices to minimize the impacts to their flock or herd. These practices center on grazing management, but can also include genetic selection principles.

 

 

 

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Wet Years have Favored Weeds

Melissa Bravo, agronomic and livestock management consultant
Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: April 21, 2020)

 

Here we go again. Another mild winter of heave and thaw with little snow cover to protect the shallow roots and crowns of improved forage crops.

Without that snow barrier, species such as alfalfa and timothy — the most susceptible of our non-native forages — are subject to winter injury, which thins stands. This leaves less competition for weeds to establish and flourish.

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Sheep Update: Creep Feeding Lambs

Dr. Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist – Sheep, Virginia Tech
(Previously published on the Virginia Cooperative Extension web page)

 

Creep feeding young lambs while still nursing the ewe can provide valuable supplemental weight gain. This added weight gain has the most economic value for lambs managed in an intensive, early weaning production system where lambs will be maintained in a dry-lot. Conversely, for lambs that will be developed on pasture throughout the spring and summer, creep feeding would be of less value due to the relative expense of this early weight gain. Creep feeding also is beneficial for flocks with a high number of multiple births, or flocks with ewes having limited milk production.

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