Have You Prepared Your Barn for Lambing?

Dr. Gary E. Ricketts, University of Illinois, Department of Animal Sciences Emeritus Professor
(Previously published with University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Livestock Trail, Sheep and Goats: January 29, 1999)

Although this piece was originally published over 20 years ago, it still holds a lot of valuable information. As we enter the new year, lambs will be soon arriving and with the business of life it’s easy to forget some of the basics. No worries though, this piece will be sure to assist!

Having the barn ready before the first lambs arrive is one way to get the lambing season off to a good start. Not all ewes have a 150-day gestation period. There is considerable variation in Continue reading

Factors Affecting Reproductive Performance of Sheep

Paula I. Menzies, DVM, MPVM, DECS-RHM, Ruminant Health Management Group, Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph
(Previously published online with the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual)

Reasons for reproductive failure in the ewe and ram are numerous. Performance must be considered in light of the management system and genetics of the breed. If targets are not being met, the following can be used as a guideline to investigate contributing factors.

Breed:
Breed selection can greatly influence reproductive performance, particularly prolificacy and age at first lambing. Sheep breeds around the world are very diverse in performance, and it is advisable to be familiar with the traits of some of the more popular ones. Continue reading

Reducing Hay Storage and Feeding Losses

Dr. Jessica Williamson, Extension Forage Specialist, Penn State
(Previously published in Feedlot Magazine)

Storage losses of uncovered hay can be upwards of 30%!

On most livestock operations, the greatest operational cost is stored and harvested feed, so it only makes sense that striving to reduce storage and feeding losses of harvested feeds as much as possible can help improve forage quality, quantity, and overall profitability of an operation. Reducing waste, even by a few percent, can have a direct reflection on farm financial status almost immediately. Dry hay has the potential to meet most ruminant livestock nutrient requirements if Continue reading

Recap: 2019 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As promised, the 2019 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium and 70th anniversary of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association (OSIA) was full of enthusiasm, entertainment, education, friendship, and much more! Among the many highlights, this years event hosted 110 shepherds on Friday afternoon and well over 200 shepherds for the Saturday program. The unique program drew an audience from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico. We warned you earlier that you if you didn’t register for this years event, you were going to miss out and we hate to say it but we right. So, for those that weren’t able to attend, we hope that we will be able to share a few highlights that occurred on the two day event. This years event focused on ‘Improving Profitability of the Sheep Operation’ and included two special guests that are heavily involved in the North American sheep industry. Continue reading

Lively Lambs and Timely Vaccinations Go Hand in Hand

Dr. J. Bret Taylor, U.S. Sheep Experiment Station USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Dubois, Idaho 83423
(Previously published on the Montana Wool Growers Association webpage)

(Image Source: Sheep 201)

Lambing season is upon us or soon will be! Whether just beginning, in the midst of, or wrapping up lambing, lamb survival is a concern for all of us. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that the average death rate of lambs from birth through weaning to be nearly 11%! Most of these lambs are lost in the first two weeks of life.

Many troublesome diseases plague neonatal (new-born) lambs. One of these diseases is caused by Clostridium perfringens Type C, which results in bloody scours (diarrhea). Another strain of C. perfringens, Type D, rears its ugly head beginning several weeks after birth when the ewe’s milk production is high and/or lambs gain access to concentrate-type feeds (grain-based supplements or diets). Death caused from Continue reading

Is Fescue Toxicosis a Problem in Hay?

Gary Bates, Extension Forage Specialist and Director of the UT Beef and Forage Center, University of Tennessee
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: November 25, 2019)

(Image Source: Hay & Forage Grower)

Tall fescue is the dominant forage species used in the eastern United States. Being a cool-season grass, it provides grazing during the spring and fall for many livestock producers around the nation.

The variety Kentucky 31 (KY-31), released in the 1940s, made a tremendous impact on the forage and livestock industry. Most people familiar with KY-31 tall fescue recognize that it has many positive attributes, but there are also a couple of negative issues that come along with the variety.

A good news, bad news endophyte
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, it was discovered that KY-31 tall fescue is Continue reading

Tips for Stockpile Grazing Timing, Fencing, and Pasture Size

Victor Shelton, Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
(Previously published in On Pasture: December 9, 2019)

When to Start
If possible and practical, it is best to not start grazing stockpiled forage until it goes dormant. Until it goes dormant, every time that solar panel of leaves is removed, the plant will draw from the reserves in the roots. If you hurt those reserves too much, and you will set back spring growth. If you don’t allow longer rest period in the spring to allow the plant to build back roots and reserves, you can really hurt your forage stand. There are times where grazing can be beneficial, such as for reducing competition early spring for frost seeded legumes. We will consider it dormant at this point. Continue reading

Ag-note: Small Ruminant Welfare: Early Life Stages

Ariel Taylor, Hailey Snyder, Mackenzie Campbell, and Adam Lannutti, OSU Animal Science Undergraduate Students
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Small Ruminant Welfare: Early Life Stages 
** Follow the link above to view the Ag-note.

In this weeks Ag-note, Animal Sciences students Ariel Taylor, Hailey Snyder, Mackenzie Campbell, and Adam Lannutti discuss an important topic, small ruminant welfare during the early stages of life. This topic is of high importance, especially as many producers in the state Ohio approach the lambing season. In today’s society, consumers are becoming more and more interested in the manner in which we manage and interact with our livestock and rightfully so. In general, many members of society are several generations removed from the farm and they are searching for ways to further associate themselves with the products in which they purchase. We want to point out that this discussion is not a way to illustrate who is right or wrong, but rather that

Continue reading

Barn Cameras: A Shepherd’s Saving Grace

Jacci Smith, OSU Extension Educator ANR/4-H, Delaware County

Just imagine: It’s the middle of February, minus 4 degrees outside, and 3:00 am. You roll out of bed, put on your coveralls and boots. Open the door to go check that ewe that wasn’t acting quite right at chore time. That bitter cold hits you in the face and boom you are wide-awake. Once you get to the barn, you look around and there is no lambing action. So you trek back to the house, take off your winter gear and try, and fail, to get back to sleep.

This is why the invention of barn cameras was so vital. Lambing season is a time of year that we all need to be on the top of our game. When you are run down without the proper sleep, this might not be the case. Barn cameras can be an amazing tool that shepherds can have if the right steps are taken. Continue reading

Grafting: A Lamb Saving Management Tool

A. Richard Cobb, University of Illinois, Extension Sheep Specialist
(Previously published with University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Livestock Trail, Sheep and Goats: November 7, 2007)

(Image Source: Premier1Supplies)

Grafting (Fostering) is an alternative for producers who do not enjoy raising lambs on artificial milk. The ability to graft, or switch, a lamb from one ewe to another is a management tool that can save many lambs during a lambing season.

Grafting works best when you have a number of ewes lambing at the same time. When grafting, we are asking one ewe to adopt or accept another ewe’s lamb or lambs. Grafting can be done for many reasons. Examples of situations where removal of one or more lambs will benefit the lambs and the ewe are: Continue reading