Heat Stress in Small Ruminants

Kelly Froehlich, Assistant Professor and South Dakota State University Extension Sheep Specialist
(Previously published with South Dakota State University Extension: November 18, 2021)

The Upper Midwest provides periods of extreme heat during summer and shorter periods of heat stress potential during spring and fall. Are your sheep and goats cool enough in their environment? Heat stress affects sheep and goat performance by decreasing dry matter intake, while increasing the need for water. This, in return, has a direct impact on weight gain and milk production. Although sheep and goats are more heat-tolerant than other ruminants (e.g. cows), it is important to understand and identify when they may be experiencing stress.

Understanding Heat Stress
Several factors contribute to whether a sheep or goat will experience heat stress, including breed, relative humidity, temperature, wind speed, and solar radiation. The comfort zone of a fully fleeced sheep is about 10 to 90°F; this is where heat produced is the same as heat lost. Temperature comfort zone is less defined in goats, but it is generally accepted that they are better adapted to hot conditions. However, temperature is only part of the equation, with humidity having a huge impact on whether an animal will feel cool or heat stressed. Therefore, temperature humidity index (THI) is the best measure of livestock environmental stress (Table 1). Specifically for sheep and goats, heat stress is experienced when Continue reading

The Great Pasture-clipping Debate

Amber Friedrichsen, Hay and Forage Grower 2021 editorial intern
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 15, 2021)

As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. But is the grass always mowed on the other side? Deciding whether or not to mow or clip pastures can leave farmers stuck on the fence.

Possible reasons for mowing are site-specific. Producers sometimes wish to eliminate seedheads, promote even grazing, and provide weed control. However, the costs of mowing can outweigh these benefits, wasting farmers’ time and money.

Vegetation restoration
As forages mature, their palatability and nutrient availability decline. Mowing pastures is one way to Continue reading

Eastern Ohio Grazing Council Pasture Walks

Beth Kruprzak, District Conservationist, United States Department of Agriculture

The Eastern Ohio Grazing Council will host a Grazing Workshop on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 6:00 pm at Cottage Hill Farms located at 35525 Cadiz-Piedmont Road, Cadiz, Ohio 43907.

Found in 1816 by Robert Moore, Cottage Hill Farm is currently operated by 3 generations of the Moore family. Rick Moore, along with his father, Stanley, and son, Steven, raise sheep for meat production and sell high-quality wool from their Merino sheep bloodlines.

Alternative Parasite Management Practices – Dr. Braden Campbell, OSU
Predator Management – Stuart Heavilin, Harrison SWCD
Adding Small Ruminants to Your Operation – Clint Finney, NRCS

Registration is required. Please contact Carroll SWCD at 330-627-9852 to register.

Upcoming events: 
Pasture Walk – Columbiana County – 6/23/2022 at 6:00 pm
Pasture Walk – Tuscarawas County – 7/28/2022 at 6:00 pm Continue reading

Forage Harvest Management to Speed Drying and Store High Quality Forage

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension ANR Educator, Crawford County
Allen Gahler, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Sandusky County
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2022-14)

First cutting should be taken very soon to achieve high quality forage, as seen by some of the estimated NDF levels in standing alfalfa crops around the state. Keep in mind that for quality hay, alfalfa should be stored near 40% NDF and grass hay crops should have less than 55% NDF, which happens in the boot stage, or before the first flowering heads begin to emerge. Keep in mind also that the cutting, drying, and storing process results in raising NDF levels at least 3 NDF units above what it was in the standing crop at the time of cutting, and that assumes quick drying and ideal harvesting procedures.

So, it is time to be thinking about that first cutting and looking for weather windows of opportunity, especially along I-70 and south. Cutting forage for haylage or dry hay is certainly a gamble but waiting for the perfect stretch of weather can end up costing us through large reductions in forage quality as the crop matures and the fiber becomes less digestible.

Before cutting though, keep in mind that the soil should be firm enough to support equipment. Compaction damage has long-lasting effects on forage crops. We’ve seen many fields where stand loss in wheel tracks led to lower forage yields, weed invasion, and frustrating attempts to “fill in” the stand later.

Before cutting also keep in mind any Continue reading

4 Reasons to Introduce Wool into your Garden

American Wool
(Previously published online: American Wool: May 12, 2021)

If you’re looking to reap the full benefits of your garden, then you’re tending to your plot, planting your crop, or planning for next year’s bloom, gardening is truly a year-round activity. Whether you have a garden in a window planter, a small terrace, raised beds, or even in a large portion of your yard — you can benefit from using wool to help your plants thrive.

The pandemic has driven many cultural and behavioral shifts; primarily, that families are spending more time at their homes and have started new hobbies or picked up old ones. USA today found that gardening as a hobby is booming! So, we talked with Albert Wilde, owner of Wild Valley Farms, and 6th generation sheep rancher in Croydon, Utah about how wool comes into play in the flourishing field of gardening.

“Typically, when you shear a sheep you have what’s called ‘waste wool’” Wilde starts off, “this is wool that’s from the belly or hindside of the sheep and it’s often discolored, thin, and generally not considered valuable.” With waste wool making up to 20% of 

Continue reading

Focus on Optimizing the First Cut

Amber Friedrichsen, Hay and Forage Grower 2021 editorial intern
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: May 10, 2022)

First cutting is just around the corner, and this initial harvest is an opportunity to target high forage quality and yield. However, making the wrong move may create consequences that can affect stands for the rest of the season.

Joe Lawrence, dairy forage systems specialist with Cornell University, says greater inclusion rates of high-quality forage in livestock diets can lower feed costs. He encourages farmers to prioritize first cutting over other operations and aim to cut forage at its peak fiber digestibility.

“Success culminates with putting planning into action when the crop tells you it is time to harvest,” Lawrence states. “It is critical to be prepared to harvest at the optimum timing, even when that means parking the corn planter or putting other tasks on the back burner for a few days.”

Start to finish
Before getting in the field, acknowledge Continue reading

Mixing it Up (in the hay field or pasture!)

Haley Zynda, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

Pastures are really greening up in this area of Ohio and producers are antsy to turn livestock out to enjoy the lush greenery. Winter annual weeds are still thriving, patiently waiting for their summer counterparts to start germinating. Perhaps you also frost-seeded clover into pastures to improve feed quality and to cut down on nitrogen applications. If that’s the case, weed control this year will be a different story.

Having a mixed stand, whether for hay or pasture, has several benefits. As mentioned earlier, including legumes like white or red clover or alfalfa, can reduce nitrogen needs for the field. If the field is comprised of at least 25% legume, then the nitrogen fixing capability of the legume should be able to handle the nitrogen needs of the rest of the stand. In a world where nitrogen costs $1/lb, legumes are coming to the rescue.

Typically, mixed stands will also have a greater longevity than Continue reading

Preparing Rams for a Successful Breeding Season

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

Although breeding season for many is several months away, its sheep sale season across the nation and producers are on the hunt for their next stud ram. Once acquired, rams should be tested and stowed away for safe keeping until its their time to shine. In general, spermatogenesis (the production of viable sperm) can take up to 12 weeks to regenerate if rams experience health complications or heat stress. Therefore, talking about the 2022 breeding season now is timely and a read that is worthwhile.

Ensuring the health and reproductive viability of rams on your farm is critical to a successful breeding program. Because one ram can service 50+ ewes during an optimal breeding season, there is a lot more risk for flock reproductive problems associated with his fertility compared to those of individual ewes. One unsuccessful season can have a huge impact at lambing time and beyond. This risk can be minimized by following some fairly simple and straightforward steps.

Ram physical examination
Producers should become familiar with performing simple breeding exams on rams several weeks prior to the breeding season. This involves Continue reading