Sheep Water Requirements and Quality Testing

Jaelyn Whaley, South Dakota State University Extension Sheep Field Specialist
(Previously published online with South Dakota State University Extension: February 09, 2024)

Water intake is critical in ensuring animal health, performance and mitigating heat stress. In general, sheep will drink 1.0 to 1.5 gallons of water for every 4 pounds of dry matter (DM) consumed. Sheep need access to fresh, clean water with adequate space to ensure proper intake. Unclean or poor-quality water can negatively affect consumption, subsequently decreasing productivity, health and growth.

Understanding Water Requirements
Water requirements for ewes are listed in Table 1. Actual water consumption will vary with changes in temperature and humidity. Additionally, water requirement changes with stage of production, as pregnant, lactating and ewes raising multiples have the greatest water requirements. It is generally recommended that ewes raising twins or more require double the amount of water to support fetal growth and lactation (NRC, 2007).

Water is considered the most-important nutrient, because of the vast number of biological functions that rely on water. Growth, development and reproduction may be inhibited by not providing enough fluid water to a flock. Continue reading Sheep Water Requirements and Quality Testing

Ewe Flock Nutrition

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Agribusiness and Ministry of Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Sheep Specialists
(Previously published online with OMAFRA: July 5, 2023)

Nutritional management is one of the most important aspects of sheep production. Ewes that are fed appropriately are more fertile, milk better and wean more lambs that grow faster (Figure 1).

Not only do well-fed ewes wean more pounds of lamb per year, but they are healthier and more resistant to disease than ewes that are under nutritional stress. In fact, many production challenges for sheep producers are caused by inadequate nutrition, rather than disease.

Additionally, feed costs are the single largest expense on sheep farms in Ontario, accounting for approximately 41% of total expenses. The 2010 Ontario Sheep Enterprise Analysis Summary (26 producers, representing 10% of the provincial flock) reported average feed costs of $106.70 per lamb produced for the 10 least profitable flocks and $69.00 per lamb (35% less) for the 10 most profitable flocks.

Appropriate feed management can be the difference between a profit or a loss for each lamb sold. Therefore, it is imperative that producers evaluate the feed resources they have and manage them carefully to maintain good ewe nutrition and the profitability of the flock.

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Managing Heat Stress in Sheep and Goats

David Brown, Field Specialist in Livestock, University of Missouri Extension
(Previously published online with the University of Missouri Extension: September 6, 2023)

Many animals die from extreme heat and humidity each year.

“Extreme heat is stressful to livestock, including sheep and goats,” said David Brown, University of Missouri small ruminant specialist. “It is very dangerous if the onset of heat is sudden and animals do not have ample time to adapt.” The heat index gives a more accurate measure of heat stress than temperature alone because it combines temperature and humidity.

“The record-breaking heat has had a direct impact on sheep and goats,” said Brown. “Heat stress affects

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How to Take Hay Samples

Allison Lund, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Senior Editor
(Previously published online with FarmProgress Indiana Prairie Farmer: June 14, 2024)

Get into the routine of sampling after every cutting. Here are tips for how to access a probe and how to take proper samples.

“I know my hay” is a common reason folks give for why they do not sample their hay. However, environmental factors can alter nutrient levels and create a scenario where what you think you have and what you do have for hay do not match.

A solid habit to form is sampling hay after each cutting, according to Nick Minton, beef systems specialist at Purdue. He echoes the sentiment that nobody can know the nutrient levels of their hay without testing.

“The most-skilled producer will look at a hayfield and say, Continue reading How to Take Hay Samples

The Basics of Vaccinating Sheep and Goats

Rachel L. Gibbs, Graduate Student, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Animal Science
Dustin T. Yates, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Animal Science
(Previously published online with Nebraska Extension: G2339 · Index: Animal Agriculture, Sheep: January, 2022)

Developing a vaccination program that improves animals’ immunity for common diseases will increase the health, productivity, and value of sheep flocks and goat herds.

Like all livestock, sheep and goats are susceptible to a number of different infectious diseases. Although the risk of an outbreak for any specific disease depends on the time of year, age and location of the herd/flock, and nature of the production system, it is fair to assume that livestock are at constant risk from one or more diseases throughout their lifespan. Thus, developing and implementing a sound vaccination program that best fits their situation and with input from their local veterinarian allows producers to better manage herd/flock health by helping to prevent large outbreaks of infectious diseases that are often expensive and difficult to control. This NebGuide provides producers with fundamental information summarized from extensive research efforts about sheep and goat vaccines, as well as the diseases they help prevent. There is broad variability in production schemes throughout Nebraska, and this article is meant to serve as a reference for developing vaccination programs that are best suited for specific schemes. For more information regarding how vaccines work and the type of immunity they provide, please refer to Understanding Vaccines (G1445) at In addition, local veterinarians can provide guidance for choosing vaccines that are best suited for specific production systems.

When developing a vaccination program, it is essential to consider the questions “which vaccine(s)?,” “which animals?,” and “when?” The answers to these questions are often related to the stage of production. As illustrated in Figure 1, traditional programs typically include vaccinations at three main time points: (1) prior to breeding; (2) prior to or at the time of lambing/kidding; and (3) at weaning (in offspring). Young animals and first-time breeders may require additional doses of certain vaccines for maximum protection. When this is the case, such information will be explicit on the vaccine label.

Figure 1. The three main time points at which vaccines are delivered in typical sheep and goat vaccination programs.

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Three Common Genetic Defects to Review when Buying or Selling Sheep

Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK) Communications Committee – Roxanne Newton
(Previously published online with EAPK: June 7, 2024)

It’s important for buyers and sellers to be aware of a few of the more common genetic defects so that only the best quality animals are consigned and sold. It is the responsibility of sellers to consign high quality animals that are free from defects. Ask your veterinarian to perform a screening exam before consigning the animal if you are unsure. It is also the responsibility of buyers to do their due diligence by inspecting the animals they’re interested in buying before the bidding process begins. If the animal for sale is only available online, we strongly encourage bidders to contact the seller and request more information or photographs to make a more informed decision.

Jaw Evaluation
Defects of the mouth are highly genetic and can affect the sheep’s ability to nourish itself. This defect can become more pronounced with age. The lower incisors should properly meet the upper dental pad. An overshot jaw or parrot-mouth is the result of the sheep’s upper jaw being longer than the lower jaw. An undershot jaw or monkey-mouth is when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.

Continue reading Three Common Genetic Defects to Review when Buying or Selling Sheep

I’ve Got a Day, Let’s Make Hay!

Lee Beers, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Trumbull County

Making high quality forage can be difficult, especially between forecasted rains. “Hay in day,” or haylage/baleage in a day, is increasing in popularity to optimize forage nutrition and to increase the number of hay making days during the year.

The goal of hay in a day is to mow, rake, chop (or bale and wrap) forages all in one day. It sounds difficult, but it may be a good option for your farm. Like any hay-making process, the goal of making haylage in a day is to get forages to the correct moisture suitable for chopping or baleage as quickly as possible.

Continue reading I’ve Got a Day, Let’s Make Hay!

Hay Barn Fires a Real Hazard When the Rain Keeps Coming

Jason Hartschuh, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist

Mother nature has been at it again, hardly giving us enough days to make silage or balelage let alone dry hay. There is a risk of pop-up showers every afternoon it seems like. The ground is also wet so the forage laying against the ground does not dry very well. These conditions are very dangerous for hay harvest since wet hay does not just rot it may also burn. Hay fires are caused when bacteria in wet hay create so much heat that the hay spontaneously combusts in the presence of oxygen. At over 20% moisture, mesophilic bacteria release heat, causing temperature to rise between 130 F to 140 F with temperature staying high for up to 40 days. As temperatures rise thermophilic bacteria can take off in your hay and raise the temperature into the fire danger zone of over 175 F.

Assessing your risk
If hay was baled between Continue reading Hay Barn Fires a Real Hazard When the Rain Keeps Coming