Sheep Selection Tools

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, PennState Extension

(previously published in Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock)

Sheep selection should involve more than just visual selection characteristics.

There are a number of tools available for selection, but the key is to combine operation goals with production benchmarks and visual appraisal to select the best sheep for your farm. Plus, producers should take a look at an often overlooked part of the selection process: culling strategies.

Not all sheep are created equal and not all farms are created equal. Before you even walk out to the barn to look at the sheep, the first thing you should do is define your market. Who are you selling to and what does your customer want? You will then be able to define what characteristics are important for your ewe flock to exhibit. Then, step two is Continue reading

What’s Really the Best Management?

Walt Davis
(previously published in Beef Producer: The Grazier’s Gazette, February 27, 2018)

To achieve the best, all parts of the soil-plant-animal-wealth-human complex must be nurtured and none can be degraded.

Humans have a built-in need to make everything (except our desks) neat and orderly. We dislike dealing with things that we cannot categorize into neat little pigeon holes.

Farmers and ranchers are particularly fond of separating their problems and the means of dealing with these problems into tidy individual slots. Weed control here, animal performance there, disease prevention behind, cash flow over here and everybody stay in your place. We often look at these factors as separate and unrelated entities to be addressed one at a time.

The epitome of this fixation would be Continue reading

Artificial Rearing Newborn Lambs

Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Marion County

Rearing Lambs Artificially

Management Tips:
Within 2 to 4 hours after birth, decide which lambs among those needing assistance should be removed from their mother. Look for the stressed, or small lambs to select for artificial rearing.
It is important that newborn lambs receive colostrum within the first four hours. The best source of colostrum is from the mother but other ewes within the flock provide a high level of immunity. Continue reading

Do Sheep and Goats get Cold?

Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties

(Image Source: Our Ohio Magazine, Ohio Farm Bureau – Meating of the Minds)

During this time of year, the hills of eastern Ohio are covered in snow, frozen waterfalls, and massive icicles. Most of us enjoy spending these cold winter days indoors next to the fireplace or with the furnace working overtime. So with their thick wool coats, are sheep actually keeping as warm as you think? What about goats that do not have those nice thick coats? Are they just used to the cold? During the winter, extreme temperatures, precipitation and wind can create Continue reading

Can Producers Make their Ewes Lamb During the Day?

Kathy Voth, ‘On Pasture’ Editor and Contributor
(previously published in On Pasture, January 18, 2018)

How to make lambing, kidding, and calving happen during daylight hours?

Here’s a way to make your upcoming calving, lambing and kidding season a little less stressful: feed your pregnant stock every evening, right around dusk. They’ll spend the night ruminating and wait to give birth until morning.

That’s the advice shared in this video (included below) by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension Cattle Specialist. The “Konefal Method” is named after a Canadian rancher, Gus Konefal, who discovered that changing his feeding time led to more calves being born during daylight hours. Researchers at the Kansas State Experiment Station followed up with a five year study to give us all a better idea of what we could expect from a change to evening feeding.

Their results are similar to other studies. Continue reading

How can Delayed Weaning Benefit your Operation?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

At what age do you wean your lambs? This is a question that I have asked producers many times. I have heard ages ranging from 35-130 days of age with the most common answer being 60 days of age. This is the most common weaning age for producers in the eastern United States. When I ask producers why they wean their lambs at 60 days of age or younger, most respond with “that’s the way we have always done it here on the farm, so why change now?”

From a researcher’s perspective, this is not a valid answer. Weaning before the natural weaning age (between 100-180 days of age depending upon sheep breed) is stressful. Weaning stress can lead to decreases in animal performance as demonstrated by decreased weight gain. Weaning stress can also result in decreased animal health as shown by decreases in immune system function that can lead to an increased susceptibility to disease and infection. However, if we were Continue reading

ASI Sheep Handling Videos

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As explained by Dr. Temple Grandin, appropriate livestock handling and maintaining high standards of animal welfare are key to successfully raising, managing, and marketing livestock of all species. With the support of the American Sheep Industry Association and the Livestock Marketing Association, Dr. Temple Grandin outlines the appropriate methods upon how to handle sheep in any type of management or marketing situation. Understanding sheep from a behavioral standpoint will make working with sheep much easier regardless of the situation.

Listed below are 4 sheep handling videos. Whether you are Continue reading

EPA Delays Hazardous Substance Release Notification Deadline

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
(A follow up to the EPA Delays Hazardous Substance Release Notification Deadline post from November 15, 2017)

Late in the day on November 15, 2017, the EPA announced that farms with continuous hazardous substance releases as defined by CERCLA do not have to submit their initial continuous release notification until the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issues its order, or mandate, enforcing the Court’s opinion of April 11, 2017. While it appears the reports will be required sometime, producers may Continue reading

Using Goats to Improve Pastures

Marcus McCartney, OSU Extension Educator, Washington County
(Previously published in Farm and Dairy, December 1, 2017)

Do you have leftover fair goats, or inherited some that did not make weight at the fair?

Perhaps your kids or grandkids have been bugging you for the small ruminant animal for some time. Or by chance, did you come into a small herd recently?

If so, then don’t perceive goat ownership as a chore or inconvenience but rather embrace it, think positive, and start letting the goats work for you.

Useful goats:
There are several ways goats can be a useful management tool in Continue reading

Changes to Ohio’s Livestock Care Standards Take Effect Jan. 1

Ohio Department of Agriculture (Previously published in Ohio Farmer; 11-20-2017)

(Image Source: Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Livestock Care Standards Guide)

Although the latest changes in Ohio’s Livestock Care Standards may not directly effect sheep producers in the state of Ohio, these regulatory changes can serve as a reminder for sheep producers to look into these Standards to ensure that your operation is adhering to the appropriate guidelines.

By following this link, you will be provided with a quick Fact Sheet that outlines Small ruminant care, handling, transportation, management, housing, and euthanasia.

Also, you can find the full Guide regarding the care of sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas by following this additional link. Continue reading

Shearing the Flock: When are you Shearing?

North Dakota State University
(Published in The Shepherd’s Guide – Supplement to The Shepherd Magazine)

Shearing sheep prior to lambing improves flock productivity. Shepherds have some simple ways to capitalize on one of the best lamb and wool markets the American sheep industry has seen. One of them is shearing sheep. It can have tremendous impacts on flock productivity, according to Reid Redden, North Dakota State University Extension Service sheep specialist. He recommends sheep producers have their sheep shorn 30 to 45 days before anticipated lambing for several reasons, including: Continue reading

Requirements of Hazardous Substance Reporting by Livestock Farms are Further Clarified

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

Posted in last week’s Ohio BEEF Cattle letter and this week’s OSU Sheep Team blog update, Peggy Kirk Hall and Ellen Essman from OSU’s Agricultural and Resource Law office explained that beginning November 15, 2017, many livestock, poultry and equine farms were required to comply with hazardous substance release reporting requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) section 103. Since that release last week, EPA has offered some further clarification of those requirements. In addition, Peggy Kirk Hall has provided additional Continue reading

Farms Must Begin Reporting Air Releases of Hazardous Substances from Animal Wastes

Peggy Kirk Hall, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Resource Law
Ellen Essman, Law Fellow

Beginning November 15, 2017, many livestock, poultry and equine farms must comply with reporting requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) section 103. The law requires entities to report releases of hazardous substances above a certain threshold that occur within a 24-hour period. Farms have historically been exempt from most reporting under CERCLA, but in the spring of 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the rule that allowed reporting exemptions for farms. As long as there is no further action by the Court to push back the effective date, farmers and operators of operations that house beef, dairy, horses, swine and poultry must begin complying with the reporting requirements on November 15, 2017. Continue reading

Mixed Considerations to Mixed Grazing

Lauren Peterson, Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern
(Previously featured in Hay & Forage Grower: November 7, 2017)

(Image Source: Hay and Forage Grower)

“Multispecies grazing can be used to more effectively utilize all of the browse and forage in pastures, target weeds and brush, and reduce parasite loads across pastures,” says Rob Cook, planned consultation manager for the Noble Research Institute. “These benefits could also lead to increased revenues or decreased costs.”

While multispecies grazing may seem like a no-brainer from an economic and sustainability standpoint, these benefits do not always come easily. The added care and management of an additional species is only one added hassle associated with this profitable, yet challenging undertaking.

Cook asked successful land managers what they most struggle with and then compiled a list of top challenges for multispecies grazing.

Producers looking to add sheep or goats to a traditionally cattle-grazed pasture will most likely require reinforced fencing. Cook notes that while producers with the typical five-wire barbwire fencing will struggle to contain smaller ruminants, they can easily be upgraded by adding new strands of hot wire. He adds Continue reading

Fall Manure Application Tips

By Glen Arnold, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Manure Nutrient Management
Kevin Elder, Livestock Environmental Permitting, Ohio Department of Agriculture

With warmer than normal weather forecast for the next couple of weeks, corn and soybean harvest in Ohio is expected to get back on track. Livestock producers and commercial manure applicators soon will be applying both liquid and solid manure as fields become available. Continue reading

No More Free Plastic Scrapie Tags

Susan Schoenian, University of Maryland Extension, Sheep and Goat Specialist

As part of efforts to eradicate scrapie, US sheep and goat producers are required to follow federal and state regulations for officially identifying their sheep and goats. Prior to October 1, 2017, the National Scrapie Eradication Program provided free plastic ear tags and applicators. As of October 1, the program will only provide free metal tags. Continue reading

What Flooring and Bedding Materials are You Using in Your Feedlot?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

What effect does pen flooring type and bedding have on the performance of finishing lambs?

A common management practice used to finish lambs is to house and feed lambs in an enclosed feedlot. Feedlots are used to protect the lambs from several environmental factors, predators, and parasites as well as ensuring the quality and amount of feed each lamb is receiving. Within the feedlot environment, variation in structural design and feedlot management is to be expected. As a producer, have you ever considered Continue reading

Identify and Control Poison Hemlock

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Wayne County

As I have driven around the county the past few weeks, I have noticed some patches of poison hemlock on roadside banks and also in some fields. This is a concern because all parts of this plant including leaves, stems and roots are poisonous when ingested. This is a good time to scout both hay fields and pastures for this weed and take steps to control it. This is not a weed that livestock owners can afford to ignore.

Poison hemlock has an appearance similar to wild carrot and is a member of the parsley family. The plant has compound leaves made up of multiple leaflets that are finely divided and have a triangular shape. Some descriptions say the leaf has a lacy appearance. One of the key identifying characteristics is the stem. The stem of poison hemlock is Continue reading

Pasture, Parasites, and Risk Management

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

May through early June is generally a time of good pasture growth and corresponding livestock production. However, if you are grazing sheep and goats this is the time of year that needs careful consideration in regards to internal parasites, in particular Haemonchus contortus, the barber pole worm. One way to approach this grazing season is to think in terms of risk management.

What can be done to reduce or minimize the risk of a heavy parasite infection while sheep and goats graze pastures? Continue reading

Interested in Finding Out How Your Lambs are Performing? Have Them Scanned!

Bill and Susan Shultz, Logan County Sheep Producers

Bill and Susan Shultz will be scanning their 2009 lamb crop on Friday, June 20, 2009 at their farm in DeGraff, Ohio. They have contracted with Bonnie Bradford, a skilled technician, to do the scanning of loin eye and back fat as she has done the past three years for the Shultz’s. Continue reading

What Resources are Available to Help Improve Your Sheep Operation?

Curt Cline, Director for Commercial Flock Owners, Co-Chairman of Membership Services OSIA
Daryl Clark, Director for Lamb Feeders, Co-Chairman of Membership Services OSIA

As I begin to embark on this subject, I can’t help but think I should have changed the title to, “Where are the resources available to improve your sheep operation?” Maybe I should begin by explaining what type of resource I am talking about. Natural resources are well, natural if you will. Financial resources come in many shapes. I suppose most people would consider Continue reading

Helpful Resources Available from the American Sheep Industry Association

Tim Fine, OSU Miami County Program Assistant
Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

If you are producing sheep in the United States, there are a few resources provided by ASI that you will want to become familiar with.

The Sheep Care Guidepublished in 2006. The Sheep Care Guide was developed to serve as a reference to provide sheep producers with information about Continue reading

Management Considerations to Lower Lamb Mortalities

Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

There are many factors that affect lamb survival. Serious shepherds should consult the Sheep Production Handbook, produced by the American Sheep Industry Association (, for a more complete discussion of the various conditions and infectious diseases which impact lamb survival. However, if a pregnancy is carried to term, most losses occur Continue reading

A Producer’s Perspective of the Sheep Industry after the Trip Out West

Roger High, OSU Ohio State Extension Sheep Specialist

As a long time sheep producer, and one that loves the sheep industry and the people involved in it, it was a fabulous, once in a lifetime experience for me. I have never been to “sheep country” so to speak in all of my years of raising and producing sheep, but this area of the United States is just really part of “sheep country”, but it was so great to be in it. The State of Idaho has approximately 100,000 more sheep than Continue reading

Culling the Sheep Flock

Roger High, OSU Ohio Sheep Extension Program Specialist

With increasing production costs, livestock producers really need to evaluate each animal and decide whether that animal is really a productive animal or an animal that is “just on the payroll” and not really contributing the profitability of the program. Marginal producing ewes and rams should not be maintained in the flock!

Culling is one of the tools that should be implemented to increase the efficiency of the sheep flock. But what criteria should a producer use to base their culling decision? The following are guidelines Continue reading

Pasture Lambing

Bob Hendershot, State Grassland Conservationist

What is lambing like, for your sheep flock, hours per lamb or lambs per hour? The shepherd’s labor and the size of the lambing barn are the two things that limit the size of most Ohio sheep flocks. Pasture-lambing avoids both of these concerns.

Pasture-lambing is the lambing of ewes on pasture where the ewes and newborn lambs bond without being penned or housed. Pasture-lambing works the best in concert with the peak pasture growth. Spring and fall pasture growth can provide the quantity and quality of feed that the ewe will need during the last part of gestation and early lactation. This greatly reduces the feed cost compared Continue reading