Jeffery Held, Professor Emeritus of Animal Science, South Dakota State University
(Previously published online with South Dakota State University Extension: December 19, 2018)
Proper newborn lamb care is a critical component of flock profitability. In the U.S. lamb mortality from all causes is approximately 20% with more than 80% of those losses occurring in the first two-weeks following lambing. Yet a solid lamb care management plan coupled with a few key tools in the lambing barn can sharply improve the number of lambs reared per-ewe. Generally, the top causes for newborn lamb losses are starvation, hypothermia (cold stress), respiratory disease, and scours followed by injury. Theoretically, these categories each stand alone, however the reality is often two-or-three of these occur simultaneously. Producers that develop a lambing time-management plan to incorporate appropriate lambing tools and gain key skills on newborn lamb care will benefit from less labor input and expense with a greater number of lambs weaned.
Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat)
Shearing before lambing is a practice that benefits the welfare of the sheep as well as making management easier and increasing flock productivity. There are important considerations to keep in mind to perform this practice effectively. These relate primarily to timing relative to birth, stubble length, feeding, and protection post-shearing. If these conditions are considered carefully, the benefits are significant to both sheep and shepherd.
#1. Drier environment: Wool holds considerable moisture, with a full fleece capable of absorbing a lot of water under humid climates, even when sheep are housed indoors. This moisture holding capacity of wool creates a microclimate close to the lamb that is relatively damp, thus creating a prime environment for hosting pathogens and allowing them to proliferate. Both the
relative humidity of the barn and the microclimate near the lamb are drier when ewes are shorn, creating a healthier environment that is less conducive to pathogen growth.
#2. Cleaner environment: Wool also has the capacity to hold mud and manure as well as absorb fluids from the birth process, all of which can harbor and promote the growth of pathogens. A short fleece minimizes this situation, creating a much cleaner environment for the benefit of both the ewe and her lamb(s).
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.
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.
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.
Lambs are just one of the many agricultural commodities that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is never a good time for a pandemic to strike, but COVID-19 hit the sheep industry at the traditional best market price. Spring lambs are a family favorite for traditional Easter meals (April 12), Orthodox Easter (April 23), the Muslin feasts of Ramadan (April 23 to May 23), some Jewish sects for Passover (April 8-16), and the secular May 10 Mother’s Day celebration.
America’s biggest market for fresh lamb is in the area from Baltimore to Boston. Major East Coast packers relay on the close location of Ohio producers (Ohio has the 5th most producers in the US) to provide a steady source of fresh lamb. The “white tablecloth restaurants” and the other segments of the food service industry account for greater than 50% of the United State’s lamb consumption. As demand builds back to pre-pandemic levels, Ohio lambs will continue to be a large part of the East coast supply chain.
Ohio Sheep Facts:
- Lamb price from United Producers in Mt. Vernon, Ohio collection point (weekly – low and high prices are recorded, and the average number is used for these calculations). The dollar price represented is lost value in market decline from March 13 to April 10 sales. The gross revenue for each lamb has dropped 25% from the lamb market value in early March.
- Finished lambs (131 lbs.) – (0.47 cwt X 131) = $61.50
- Roaster lambs (60 lbs.) – (0.45 cwt X 60) = $27
- Hair lambs (80 lbs.) – (0.30 cwt X 80) = $24
- Aged sheep (average of 150 lbs.) – (0.30 cwt X 150) = $45
- Producer questions have generally been directed to the decision to sell Easter lambs at this time or add additional weight and sell them later in the fall. Each case will need to be evaluated on an individual basis and will depend on resources and financial stability.
- Club lamb and breeding stock producers are selling their sheep privately or through online sales. Quality animals are being sold at expected values.
- Ohio lamb feeders have been able to move their contracted lambs, but non-contracted market lambs are not able to be sold.
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.