Recap: 2020 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For the first time in its history, the 2020 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium was presented 100% virtually and might we add, went off without a hitch! Due to the unique format of the event, this years symposium was a one day event hosted on December 4th from 2:00 – 5:30 pm. According to our registration poll, we had well over 200 participants registered for the event – a record high for the Friday program in my time serving on the planning committee. Of our viewers in attendance, a vast majority were from the United States, but due to this unique webinar opportunity we were also able to connect with other shepherds in Canada and Argentina. Although it would have been nice to end this chaotic year visiting with our fellow shepherds in person over an Ohio lamb meal, we feel that this was an amazing alternative. For those that attended this years event, thank you! You will be receiving an email with the entire program recording, including the Q&A sessions in addition to the OSIA (Ohio Sheep Improvement Association) annual meeting. Please access and view the recording as soon as possible as it will only be available online in full for 120 days. For those that were unable to attend this years event, we have provided some program highlights below. Furthermore, presentation recordings from our guest speakers this year will be periodically shared throughout 2021 on the OSU Sheep Team webpage.

To begin our webinar, Dr. Francis Fluharty, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at the University of Georgia, spoke on the topics of feed processing, digestive upset, and observations during feeding. Dr. Fluharty began his discussion with what feedstuffs or rather what forms of feedstuffs cause issues in our production systems. In his 30 years of research, he noted that he has yet been able to show that feeding any type of processed corn is more efficient than whole shelled corn. When it comes to grains – “the thought that animals can not eat a whole grain diet is simply wrong.” Whether you are buying or making your own rations, processing grains increases the cost of your diet. Removing this step will result in a decreased cost in your ration as well as an increase in feed efficiency. For those that follow our research summaries, we have summarized work from Hejazi and others (1999) regarding the effects of corn processing. For those that are unfamiliar with this piece, check it out on this weeks posting of by following this link. However, these statements are not to say that we should not process any of our feeds on-farm. When feeding fiber in the form of long stemmed roughage sources, processing hays to reduce the particle size to less than 1.6 inches will also increase feed efficiency. Reducing forage particle size aids in digestion by exposing more surface area for microbe attachment as well as increasing diet through put. Dr. Fluharty also explained the differences between bloat, acidosis, and enterotoxemia. The best management tool when it comes to preventing these issues is appropriate bunk and feeder management. Dr. Fluharty concluded this presentation with the thought that there is always room to improve feeding management. Once this is taken into consideration, the risks for issues associated with feed related diseases is greatly reduced.

To continue the programs discussion on feeding to sheep we welcomed Mr. Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Beef Cattle Field Specialist, to discuss the topic of feeding wet forages to sheep. At the beginning of the presentation, Garth sought to cover what is baleage, how is it made, is it safe for sheep, and how to ultimately feed it to sheep. Due to climate change, it has become more challenging over the years to make quality first cutting hay in Ohio due to excessive rainfall in conjunction with the inability to make dry hay. As an alternative to increase the quality of first cutting hay, producers may consider making baleage. Baleage is simply the process of combining baling hay with the ensiling process. Feeding fermented feedstuffs to sheep may seem like an odd practice, but can be done successfully with a few quick tips. Garth noted that baleage must be made correctly – meaning: at the right time, correct moisture needed for fermentation, covering with an appropriate amount of plastic (at least6 millimeters), and feeding quickly once the bale has been exposed to oxygen upon opening. When feeding baleage, producers should familiarize themselves with what different molds mean, what is an appropriate pH needed for fermentation to occur, and how quickly you need to feed these bales. For those that are feeding smaller flocks, using the smallest bales you are able to make (i.e. 4×4) and wrapping individually may be the best option for your operation. Furthermore, Garth also notes that although baleage is fermented longer forages should still be processed in order to achieve optimum feeding efficiency. When done correctly, feeding baleage can be a huge asset to your operation. To learn more on this topic, be sure to check out the other baleage pieces located here on the webpage using the search function.

To conclude our presentations, Dr. Francis Fluharty also discussed an important topic that many in the sheep industry too often forget – mineral and vitamin supplementation. In addition to outlining the biological benefits of several macro and micro minerals, Dr. Fluharty also provided some insight on the do’s and don’ts of mineral nutrition. A common myth that Dr. Fluharty dispels is that “animals are ‘nutritionally aware’, so you don’t need mineral supplement” or that animals can select their needed nutrients from a buffet. This is simply not true and therefore important to provide a complete mineral for all sheep to consume. Dr. Fluharty also discusses the issues with producers ‘cutting’ minerals with salt. Unless stated on the manufacturers feeding instructions, simply don’t do it. Yes, sheep have a requirement for sodium (salt), however, in most cases this is already taken into account when formulating complete mineral mixes. When cutting your minerals with salt, you are reducing mineral intake as salt in an intake limiter. The goal of providing free choice mineral is to have your sheep consume their needed quantity on a daily basis. If this is reduced due to cutting with salt, well you have reduced the efficacy and overall purpose of your mineral program. Furthermore, providing trace mineral blocks is not an appropriate mineral program. Yes, these products are cheaper than other mineral sources, but ultimately you get what you pay for. Blocks greatly reduce mineral intake. To conclude his discussion, Dr. Fluharty notes that mineral deficiencies may go undetected, thus resulting in decreased performance. In addition, mineral requirements change according to an animals stage of production. Therefore, before you make those strict culling decisions, make sure that you are providing an optimum nutrition program to your animals. Who knows, maybe its not the animals fault in some situations.

In addition to our presentations, this years program also highlighted videos of the 2019 Ohio State Fair Carcass Lamb Evaluation in addition to the traditional OSU Sheep Team Research update. Both videos can be found on our webpage by using the search function or by simply clicking on the attached links above.

Be sure to save the date for the 2021 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium which will be held at the OARDC Shisler Center in Wooster, OH on December 3-4, 2021. As always, we would like to thank everyone for your continued support of our state sheep organizations in addition to OSU Extension. It is our pleasure to continue supporting our shepherds in the great state of Ohio, across the nation, and around the world. For those that were involved in the 2020 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium, we would love to hear from you on how the program went. What did you like, dislike, and would you attend additional programs in the future offered in this format? Until next time, Happy Shepherding!