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.
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)
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)
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.