Sheep Mineral Nutrition

With pastures full of lush, green forage, depending upon the quality and quantity of forage available, producers tend to discount the need for supplementation when managing ewes and does before the next breeding cycle. Unfortunately, with this being said, the importance of a complete mineral program is often forgotten. Join Dr. Francis Fluharty, current Department Head and Professor at the University of Georgia and emeritus professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University as he reviews the basic principles and importance of providing a comprehensive mineral program on a yearly basis within our small ruminant systems.

Feeding Small Ruminants: Developing a Grazing System for Sheep and Goats

Rocky Lemus, Extension Forage Specialist, Mississippi State University
Kipp Brown, Extension Area Agent, Mississippi State University Extension
(Previously published online with Mississippi State University Extension: July, 2008)

Small farming operations are becoming more popular as the amount of land available for large livestock enterprises and row crops is reduced by urban sprawl. Small ruminant livestock systems such as sheep and goats fit well with small farm operations. Forages, whether are grazed or hayed, supply the major source of nutrition and a critical component to small farm enterprises to maintain sustainability. Many of these small farm owners are either newcomers to farming or people living in urban areas and see them as “hobby” farms. There is a critical need to educate them on the basic agricultural practices and forage utilization for this type of livestock management.

The grazing habits of sheep and goats differ from traditional livestock production and they can be incorporated into the grazing systems for cattle and horses. Goats tend to browse more while sheep tend to graze. Goats are efficiently used in pasture utilization controlling brush and weed. Continue reading

Coccidiosis in goats and sheep

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: August 23, 2017 and December 28, 2017)

Coccidiosis is a serious problem that commonly causes death in kids and lambs. Knowing the facts about coccidiosis can help producers develop a plan for prevention and/or treatment of the disease.

Coccidiosis is not caused by a bacteria, virus, or roundworm but by single cell protozoa. There are multiple coccidia species that are found in the environment. Some of these are non-infective, some moderately infective, and others are highly infective. Strains of coccidia are animal species specific with some very limited crossover between sheep and goats.

The following are some coccidia facts: Continue reading

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 Continue reading

Crossbreeding for Profit

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

With breeding animal sale season upon us, now is the time to consider and finalize your plans for the 2021 breeding season. Acquiring breeding rams and bucks prior to use and need is critical as this time period allows for producers to both quarantine and acclimate newly purchased stock to their operations. For those with commercial based flocks and herds, crossbreeding may be your ticket to achieving greater growth efficiencies and price premiums.

Crossbreeding is probably the most misunderstood and underappreciated practice in commercial livestock production. Crossbreeding is the mating of males and females of different breeds or breed types. Purebreeding is the mating of individuals of the same breed or type. Crossbreeding is the recommended breeding strategy for commercial meat sheep and meat goat production.

As a breeding practice, crossbreeding does not Continue reading

Club Lamb Fungus – Ringworm

Duane Miksch, Food Animal Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky
(Previously published online as Vet 30, Agriculture Veterinary Publications)

(Image Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture)

Club Lamb Fungus Disease is of increasing concern in exhibited sheep. It is highly contagious in fitted sheep, and also is easily transmitted to people who groom and care for sheep.

Club Lamb Fungus Disease is an atypical moist ringworm of sheep. It has sometimes been referred to as lumpy wool, which is a misnomer, because lumpy wool is a skin disease caused by a species of filamentous bacteria that also causes strawberry footrot. Lumpy wool occurs frequently in Africa, Europe, and Australia, but not in North America.

A better understanding of Club Lamb Fungus Disease and the conditions that favor its spread willhelp you keep your sheep and yourself free of this serious fungal skin disease.

Continue reading

Two Common Cereal Harvesting Mistakes

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: April 20, 2020)

If you recall from last week, we highlighted the benefits and challenges of making and feeding wet wrapped forages to small ruminants. As they say, high risk comes with high reward. For those that have cover crops available, you may want to think twice before making it into baleage. From personal experience, making baleage out of cover crop forages can be tricky work. For those considering using baleage for the first time, stick with grasses first to master this unique feeding technique. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Before considering the use of spring harvested cereal/annual forages, be sure to consider these two common harvesting mistakes highlighted by Mike Rankin with Hay and Forage Grower.

For a variety of reasons, winter cereal forages are more popular these days than ever before. In addition to providing a high-quality livestock feed, winter cereals offer many land conservation and soil quality attributes; they also offer a manure-spreading outlet in late spring. Continue reading

Feeding Wet Forages: Considerations for Sheep

During the 2020 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium, OSU’s new Extension Beef Cattle Field Specialist- Garth Ruff, presented on the topic of feeding wet forages to sheep. Although his current role emphasizes beef systems, Garth has a background in both forage and sheep production. He and his family have first-hand experience in feeding wet forages to their sheep throughout the winter months. Garth reviews the necessary methods for harvesting and preserving wet forages, along with how to safely provide these feeds to small ruminants. With hay harvest right around the corner, now is the time to start considering the use of wet wrapped forages in your operation!

Taking Charge of Baled Silage

Jessica Williamson, Hay and Forage Specialist, AGCO
(Previously published in Progressive Forage: April 2, 2021)

Baled silage, or baleage, is a highly nutritious livestock feed and can help producers better manage their harvest window and harvest their crop at its optimum quality.

Baleage is forage harvested at a higher moisture than dry hay, which is then wrapped in polyurethane plastic to eliminate oxygen so that anaerobic fermentation takes place. This phase converts available sugars to acids, preserving the forage and improving the nutritional value and palatability of the crop.

Silage bales beat dry hay
Silage bales have advantages over dry hay, but best management practices are in order.

First, bale silage at a higher moisture level than dry hay. This accomplishes two goals: Continue reading

Poisonous Plants to Livestock

J.M. Luginbuhl, Extension Specialist (Goats and Forage Systems), North Carolina State University
(Previously published online with NC State Extension: September 17, 2020)

As winter feed supplies run low and with producers eager to turn livestock out to pasture this spring, do yourself and your stock a favor by scouting for poisonous plants in your pasture this spring.

Factors contributing to plant poisoning are starvation, accidental eating, and browsing habits of animals. Starvation is the most common reason. Most woodland or swampy-ground pastures contain many species of poisonous plants. These are usually eaten only when animals have nothing else to eat.

Animals accidentally eat certain plants as they graze. A notable example of this is water hemlock. This plant emerges in wet areas, which are the first to become green in early spring. Animals eager to eat Continue reading