Fall Overgrazing can be Double Trouble

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: August 25, 2020)

There are a couple of things we know about the term “overgrazing.” First, it’s the most common mistake made regardless of grazing system. Second, it’s all about time.

Time comes in two forms when discussing grazing systems. There is the amount of time animals are left on a single area of pasture, and there’s the amount of time animals are kept away from that paddock after a grazing event. Both of these factors are important.

I have been on grazing operations where paddocks are purposely grazed short, but then animals are not returned to that paddock for at least seven weeks. These are usually beef operations where land base isn’t limiting. The key in such a system is Continue reading

The Selection of Replacement Ewes, and the use of Records and Visual Appraisal to Help in that Selection

A. Richard Cobb, University of Illinois, Extension Sheep Specialist
(Previously published with University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Livestock Trail, Sheep and Goats: July 20,2004)

One of the main reasons for the long term success or failure of a flock is the selection of replacement ewes to be added to the breeding unit of that flock. Whether purchased or raised, replacements need to compliment or advance the genetics already working within the flock. While it is true that ram selection can have the greatest short term impact on a flock, the selection of replacement females of sound structure and genetics will help to ensure the continuance of a high quality, problem-free breeding unit.

To make intelligent replacement additions to a flock that will benefit that flock a shepherd must Continue reading

Now is the Time to Plant Fall Cover Crops for Grazing

Kable Thurlow and Christina Curell, Michigan State University Extension
(Previously published online with MSU Extension – Cover Crops: August 27, 2019)

Cover crops can be a good option for grazing.

Last year, the wet weather during the spring left many fields unplanted. Those fields severed as a great place to seed an annual crop for fall grazing. Best forage yields are obtained when cover crops for fall grazing are planted July up to August 1st in Northern Michigan and August 15th in southern Michigan. After these dates, yield potential decreases as the remaining growing season vanishes. Therefore, we are at the point where they should be planted soon. [Luckily for us here in Ohio, we still have time remaining to get these crops into the ground before yield reducing weather sets it].

Annual cover crop mixtures can make very nutritious and economical grazing crops for spring, summer, fall and early winter grazing in Michigan. Fall grazing is especially beneficial Continue reading

Reproductive Physiology 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 in Merck Manual: Veterinary Manual: June, 2015)

(Image Source: Cornell Small Farms – Cornell University)

Ewes are seasonally polyestrous,cycling every 16–17 days during the breeding season. The major environmental factor controlling the estrous cycle is the photoperiod. Decreasing photoperiod after the summer solstice causes secretion of melatonin, which triggers the hypothalamus to produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone. Geographic location and environmental temperatures also modify the length of anestrus, as does the breed of sheep. Fine-wool breeds (eg. Rambouillet and Merino), tropical breeds, and Dorsets have a shorter anestrous period than other breeds such as the Suffolk, Hampshire, Border Leicester, and Columbia. Regardless of this breed-related variation in the length of the breeding season, all breeds are most fertile in the autumn, and anestrus is an unlikely problem associated with regular annual mating.

The duration of estrus (~30 hr.) is influenced by Continue reading

Flushing Small Ruminants for a Higher Ovulation Rate

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

Continue reading

3 Constituents Beyond Protein and RFV

Rebecca Kern, Animal Scientist, Ward Laboratories Inc.
(Previously published in Progressive Forage: August 4, 2020)

Often, I consult with livestock producers testing forage for their animals. Inevitably there are two numbers on the report they are most concerned with, protein and relative feed value (RFV). Protein is an important value to understand if the forage meets animal requirements, and RFV is a useful index to quickly compare or rank forages.

However, examination of directly measured constituents can help producers understand the characteristics of that forage as it pertains to feeding livestock. So, here are three other constituents to consider when evaluating a forage for livestock feed.

1. Acid detergent fiber (ADF)
This is the least digestible portion of the feed, made up of Continue reading

The Management Continuum

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

(Pipestone Sheep Management Wheel)

According to Websters dictionary, management is defined as the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business) whereas continuum is a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees. In thinking about the management continuum of a small ruminant enterprise, producers and shepherds alike must ensure progression of each task through precision management. As producers, our role as the owner or animal care taker never ends. Daily chores may seem repetitive and daunting, but as our flocks and herds progress through the stages of production, specific tasks must be completed along the way in order to ensure that we provide for our animals to perform at their optimum.

The management continuum is used to outline each phase of production and highlight key tasks that should be considered. Previously,

Continue reading

Small Ruminant Enterprise Budgeting

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

The following is a short excerpt from Susan Schoenian’s article titled “Economics of Raising Sheep and Goats.” Here, Susan breaks down the basics of a small ruminant enterprise budget. Along with this text, Susan has also provided links to sample budgets at the end of this article that were created at the University of Maryland that focus sheep and goat seedstock (purebred and show wether) production, raising feeder lambs and kids, as well as wool sheep enterprises. Even if you are already a part of one of these businesses, it never hurts to pencil your own operating budget out.

Enterprise budget:
An enterprise budget lists the income and expenses and expected profit (or loss) for a specific agricultural enterprise. It represents one year’s worth of production and expresses profit on a per unit basis. In the case of sheep and goats, profit is expressed per female (ewe or doe). Continue reading

Why are Meat Goats Profitable?

Among our small ruminant enterprises, goats continue to maintain a strong foothold in the marketplace today. Goats, known for their browsing grazing behavior, are beneficial in mixed grazing strategies as they will consume unwanted browse, brush, and weeds that other ruminant species leave behind. In this short presentation, Dr. Reid Redden from Texas A&M highlights these benefits and much more when describing these animals as a value added species to your current operation.

The Threat of Asian Longhorned Tick Continues

Dr. Tim McDermott, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Franklin County
(Previously published in Farm and Dairy: July 23, 2020)

(Image Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Previously highlighted on the OSU Sheep Team last week, my colleague Erika Lyon wrote a great article that discussed the invasive Asian Longhorned Tick. I want to give an update on where that tick is now, where its new host range is located, and what potential disease problems to look out for.

Major concern:
The Asian longhorned tick is native to East Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand. It had not previously been found in the United States prior to its discovery on a farm in New Jersey in the fall of 2017. This tick is a major concern as it reproduces via parthenogenesis, which means thatthe female does not need a male in order to reproduce, she can start laying eggs, which are genetic clones, that can overwhelm the host in very large numbers.

It has been found on

Continue reading