Recap: 2021 Ohio Sheep Day

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

Sunflowers… Can they be used as a forage, or better yet, will sheep graze them? What about brassicas, such as turnips and radishes? If these were to be grazed, what is their feed value?  These question as well as many others were discussed at the 2021 Ohio Sheep Day held at the OARDC Small Ruminant Center in Wooster, Ohio.

Traditionally, Ohio Sheep Day is held in July, but with the uncertainty of summer programming, the 2021 Ohio Sheep Day planning committee elected to hold this years event in the fall. As noted by many in attendance, the cool, crisp weather was a nice addition to the slate of events.

Per usual, the day began with welcomes and introductions of those involved in preparing for the day. Attendees were welcomed to the university facility by many important leaders such as Dr. Anne Dorrance, Director of the Wooster Campus, and Gregg Fogle, manager of the Small Ruminant Center. At the conclusion of the opening remarks, it was off to the pastures to begin our field discussions. First on the list was alternative forages. Regardless of your operation, feed (wether this is in the form of forage, grain, or a combination of both) represents the greatest proportion of production costs on a yearly basis. Therefore, improving digestibility and availability of feedstuffs throughout the year is critical to operation success. To remain timely, we thought that it would be interesting to set up a demonstration were we had selected 15 annual forages to offer sheep to graze. Grazing plots, as shown above, were planted on August 9th. We are currently in the process of collecting forage dry matter yields, but quality data (crude protein and fiber digestibility estimates) were collected and quantified on September 29. For those interested in what the feed value of sunflowers, purple top turnips, and barely are, take a look at Table 1. I think that many of you will be impressed with what these forages have to offer!

Table 1. 

2021 Ohio Sheep Day Annual Forage Quality Summary
Plot Forage type Forage variety DM CP ADF NDF
1 Brassica Purple Top Turnip 15.5% 23.7% 16.0% 19.8%
2 Legume Crimson Clover 13.3% 31.3% 21.7% 30.1%
3 Brassica Winfred Brassica 15.9% 24.2% 17.8% 25.4%
4 Brassica Hunter Rape 14.2% 27.7% 18.8% 23.4%
5 Brassica Daikon Radish 13.7% 27.9% 17.9% 24.8%
6 Small Grain Everleaf Oats 17.5% 28.9% 23.9% 42.0%
7 Grass Sorghum-Sudan 26.8% 18.9% 29.3% 52.3%
8 Grass Egyptian Wheat 25.3% 18.6% 31.1% 55.5%
9 Legume Winter Pea 19.0% 24.6% 22.2% 30.7%
10 Small Grain Triticale 17.1% 33.2% 20.2% 40.6%
11 Forb Buckwheat 19.9% 20.3% 17.8% 20.0%
12 Legume Grazing Soybean 24.4% 24.8% 21.4% 29.8%
13 Small Grain Barley 19.2% 33.4% 19.9% 39.0%
14 Small Grain Winter Grain Rye 19.1% 32.6% 16.9% 37.2%
15 Forb Sunflower 17.4% 29.4% 21.2% 30.2%
Notes: Important terms:
  CP = Crude Protein
  ADF = Acid Detergent Fiber (indigestible portions of forage – cellulose and lignin)
  NDF = Neutral Detergent Fiber (structural components of the plant – hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin)
Data were analyzed on a DM basis
Measurement Forage type Quality rating
High Low
ADF Legume < 35% > 35%
NDF Legume < 40% > 50%
Grass < 50% > 60%

Not to give too much away and to keep this recap brief, for those that are interested in learning more about our test plots be sure to keep a look out on the OSU Sheep Team webpage for a follow up video reviewing each forage.

Next on the agenda was a discussion on making and feeding baleage by Jason Hartschuh, Extension Educator from Crawford County. As noted several times here on our page, small ruminant producers can safely and effectively feed baleage to sheep and goats. However, the margin of error is much less when compared with feeding cattle. Jason reviewed with the group the do’s and don’ts of making and feeding baleage, pointing out the pH desired for proper fermentation, the amount of time required to accomplish this process, as well as the amount of plastic needed on each bale. For those interested in learning more about feeding baleage to sheep and goats, I encourage you to view previous articles posted on our page by searching our blog using the key words of “baleage,” “haylage,” or “silage”.

Prior to lunch, Christine Gelley, Extension Educator from Noble County gave a quick recap of the livestock mortality composting certification available through OSU Extension. This two hour certification process reviews the acceptable methods for disposing of livestock on Ohio farms. For those that were unable to attend the certification session that was held the night prior to sheep day, please reach out and we will get you connected with the next session.

After lunch, sessions changed gear from nutrition and compositing to animal handling and management. By design, fall lambing at the Small Ruminant Center was in full swing at the time of the event. Manager Gregg Fogle reviewed with the group his protocol for fall lambing including synchronization protocols and general ewe flock management. In Gregg’s opinion, there are no disadvantages to fall lambing – well except for the flies. The lack of cold weather coupled with the high demand for young feeder lambs during the winter months makes this management scheme a win-win.

Regardless of your lambing period, understanding how to manage the delivery of a difficult birth is crucial. In order to appreciate the complexity of dystocia and how to correct for an issue when needed, Jacci Smith, Extension Educator from Delaware County came equipped with her lambing simulators. Scenarios involving anything from a breach lamb to ring womb were available for those to practice with in order to prepare for when the time comes. Practice makes perfect and what better way to practice than with these simulators?

As a final piece to wrap up the day, we concluded with a general discussion of the handling facilities at the research unit and a review of tools available on the market that can be used for hoof care. As discussed, there are many tools that producers can add to their hoof trimming tool box including hand trimmers, pneumatic shears, grinding wheels, turn tables, and much more. Finding the right tool that meets your needs of your operation is key. It is suggested that prior to making some of the more expensive purchases, connect with other producers in your local area to see if they have tools that you can demo or what techniques work best for them.