Basic Winter Care for Livestock

Dorothy Perkins, Former Dairy, Livestock, and Forage Crops Field Specialist, University of New Hampshire
(Previously published online with the University of New Hampshire Extension, December 6, 2017)

Another summer gone and school has started. I’m thinking about adjusting my driving schedule to avoid buses, heat for the house, my winter garden, and preparing my animals and their winter digs for the long, cold days and nights ahead. It’s a New England thing, we spend the warm days preparing for the cold ones. Brrr.. it’s cold away from the wood-stove, but winter doesn’t mean you can neglect livestock care. Quite the contrary. Preparing now can make it much easier once the snow flies. Here are some basic things to consider.

Animals in a closed barn environment during the winter months will still need fresh air, which means good ventilation. A warm, tightly closed barn may seem comfortable to us, it’s not so for livestock. Good air exchange is important to eliminate ammonia gas that causes respiratory problems. It also lowers communicable diseases associated with a close contact environment. Alternatively, drafts should be avoided.

Living areas will need to be cleaned of manure and wet bedding routinely, depending on Continue reading

Lambing and kidding Simulators

With lambing and kidding season approaching quickly, it’s never too early to be prepared. Whether you are a new or seasoned shepherd, we can all learn a thing or two when honing in our skills. For those interested in some visual and verbal practice as it relates to dystocia challenges, I encourage you to take 12 minutes over your lunch or in the evening to review how some of these difficult positions and challenges can be remedied yourself on-farm. Like what you see? Good news – our very own Jacci Smith, ANR Extension educator in Delaware County, will be traveling the Extension winter meeting circuit this year traveling with her simulator. Be sure to visit our page here weekly with announcements and updates on where you can catch her in-person next. Happy Shepherding!

Managing small ruminants to reduce complications at parturition

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: October 12, 2018)

Kidding/Lambing is a very stressful time for small ruminants. Proper management leading up to delivery can help to reduce complications.

Pregnant animals have a few very important needs that are different from other livestock. The start of care for a pregnant animal should begin well before the actual breeding takes place. Does and ewes need to have an acceptable body condition score (BCS). Body condition scores in sheep and goats range from 1-5. They need to be neither too fat nor too thin to be able to have a heat cycle, become pregnant, and continue to support a fetus or multiple fetuses. This means that producers must have an adequate nutritional program in place for their breeding herd or flock.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that Continue reading

Get Ready: Winter Livestock Management

Dr. Susan Kerr, Washington State University, Emeritus Professor – Livestock and Dairy Regional Extension Specialist
(Previously published online with Washington State University, Whatcom Ag Monthly: Volume 5, Issue 11)

Rain, sleet, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures are on the way. Winter can be a real struggle for two- or four-legged animals. Those of us with two legs can generally put on a warmer coat or go inside to warm up with a cup of something hot, but what can livestock managers do to keep animals healthy and comfortable in the upcoming winter? Being proactive about livestock’s winter needs will reap many more dividends than will responding to a problem after it has developed.

The necessity of a clean and reliable year-round source of water cannot be overemphasized. Novice managers often mistakenly believe that animals can meet water requirements by eating snow or licking ice. With daily water requirements varying from three gallons (sheep) to 14 gallons (beef cattle, more for dairy), one can see that livestock would need to spend every waking hour eating snow to meet their requirements. Ice and snow consumption also Continue reading

Making the Most of Your Fall Grazing

Dr. Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension ANR Educator, Perry County

Depending on what part of the state or country you live in, this year has been another challenge with pastures and forages. Hay yields are all over the board as far as quantity and to date I am surprised of the few results that I have seen the quality. Many in my area were able to get first cutting of in great time this spring, but the quality has been surprisingly lower than expected. So as many finish up hay making, now is a good time to take inventory of what you have and take forage samples to determine what nutrient values are in the crop.

If you find yourself with low forages going into fall, some options may include Continue reading

2023 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium Announced

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

2023 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium Flyer 

(*To register, please following the link below or scan this QR code.)

On behalfof The Ohio State University, Ohio Sheep and Wool Program, and Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, we are pleased to announce the date of the 2023 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium to be held on Saturday, December 2, 2023 at The Ohio State University Wooster Campus Shisler Conference Center (1680 Madison Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691). The theme of the 2023 symposium is Nutrition and Marketing. Throughout the day, we will hear reflections and insights about changes in the sheep, lamb and wool industry. We will discuss nutrition as it primarily relates to sheep flocks including an emphasis on club lamb flock nutrition. We will also hear from speakers on marketing insights of both sheep, lamb and wool. Speakers and discussions will lead to the betterment of the flock and the American Sheep Industry.

Speakers at this years event include: Continue reading

Forage Challenges as the Weather Turns Cooler to Keep Livestock Safe

Kyle Verhoff, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Defiance County
Jason Hartschuh, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist

(Image Source: SA Mohair Growers Association)

As the year begins to wrap up and temperatures drop, there are countless things to consider including how the coming frosts impact the toxicity of our forages. This past week many portions of the state began to flirt with possible overnight frosts which raises concerns of prussic acid poisoning, nitrate poisoning, and increased bloat as a result of feeding certain fall forages.

What is prussic acid toxicity?
Prussic acid toxicity is the accumulation of prussic acid (i.e., hydrogen cyanide) in forage plant tissue. Prussic acid is the product of a reaction between two naturally occurring plant molecules, cyanogenic glycosides and degrading enzymes. Plant cell walls usually separate the two, but a frost event freezes the water in a plant cell, rupturing the cell wall and allowing the formation of prussic acid.

What variables contribute to prussic acid toxicity?
Forage Species
The forage species that are the main concern when it comes to prussic acid toxicity are Continue reading

Incorporating Cull Pumpkins into Livestock Diets

Dr. Susan Kerr, Washington State University, Emeritus Professor – Livestock and Dairy Regional Extension Specialist
(Previously published online with Washington State University, Whatcom Ag Monthly: Volume 5, Issue 2)

Pumpkins–those beautiful orange orbs of autumn–aren’t just beautiful and delicious, they can also make a pretty darn good alternative livestock feed. Maybe…

Thanks to a large biodegradable mulch trial at the WSU-Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center in 2015 that featured pumpkins, we had a large amount of pumpkins to find a purpose for at the conclusion of the trial. Word went out to area livestock producers to engage in a non-scientific pumpkin feeding trial.

Questions to Answer
Study goals included answering the following questions:

  • What is the nutritional value of pumpkins as a livestock feed?
  • Which livestock species are best suited to eating pumpkins?
  • How much labor is needed to make pumpkins suitable for each species?
  • How much of a normal feed ration could be replaced by pumpkins?
  • Are there any positive or negative effects on animal health or performance?
  • What pumpkin storage issues are involved with long-term feeding?

Straw and pumpkin silage, ensiled 100 days (Image Source: Washington State University)

Storage Solution = “Pumpkage”?
If temperature and humidity can be controlled, pumpkins can be easily stored for several months, but not forever; mold and rot eventually occur. This is unfortunate because often when cull pumpkins are available, this means LOTS of pumpkins requiring LOTS of storage space, but rarely optimal storage conditions. Continue reading

Matching Forages to the Nutrient Needs of Meat Goats

Paul Mueller, Professor Emeritus, Crop and Soil Sciences
Matt Poore, Department Extension Leader and Ruminant Nutrition Specialist, Animal Science
JM Luginbuhl, Extension Specialist (Goats & Forage Systems), Crop and Soil Sciences
Jim Green, Professor and Extension Specialist (Forage Crops/Pastures), Crop and Soil Sciences
(Previously published online with North Carolina State Extension: November 3, 2020)

Forages for goats
Goats offer an alternative to utilizing forage and vegetation which is otherwise “wasted,” while producing a healthful food product (meat) currently marketable and in demand by a growing segment of the US population. In addition, because of their preference for “browse” goats offer the potential for using idle land that is currently unproductive, and for biological control of unwanted vegetation in pastures and forests without use of pesticides.

Goats consume only the best parts of a wide range of grasses, legumes, and browse plants. Browse plants include brambles, shrubs, trees, and vines with woody stems. The quality of feed on offer will depend on many things, but it is usually most directly related to the age or stage of growth at the time of grazing. The nutrient composition for several common feed types found on many farms is shown in Table 1. Continue reading