Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat)
Shearing before lambing is a practice that benefits the welfare of the sheep as well as making management easier and increasing flock productivity. There are important considerations to keep in mind to perform this practice effectively. These relate primarily to timing relative to birth, stubble length, feeding, and protection post-shearing. If these conditions are considered carefully, the benefits are significant to both sheep and shepherd.
#1. Drier environment: Wool holds considerable moisture, with a full fleece capable of absorbing a lot of water under humid climates, even when sheep are housed indoors. This moisture holding capacity of wool creates a microclimate close to the lamb that is relatively damp, thus creating a prime environment for hosting pathogens and allowing them to proliferate. Both the
One of the main reasons for the long term success or failure of a flock is the selection of replacement ewes to be added to the breeding unit of that flock. Whether purchased or raised, replacements need to compliment or advance the genetics already working within the flock. While it is true that ram selection can have the greatest short term impact on a flock, the selection of replacement females of sound structure and genetics will help to ensure the continuance of a high quality, problem-free breeding unit.
To make intelligent replacement additions to a flock that will benefit that flock a shepherd must Continue reading →
According to Websters dictionary, management is defined as the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business) whereas continuum is a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees. In thinking about the management continuum of a small ruminant enterprise, producers and shepherds alike must ensure progression of each task through precision management. As producers, our role as the owner or animal care taker never ends. Daily chores may seem repetitive and daunting, but as our flocks and herds progress through the stages of production, specific tasks must be completed along the way in order to ensure that we provide for our animals to perform at their optimum.
The management continuum is used to outline each phase of production and highlight key tasks that should be considered. Previously,
Grazing land managers who graze multiple livestock species in the same animal groups or on the same acres of land see ecological as well as economic benefits that could improve the sustainability of their operations. Multi-species 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. These benefits could also lead to increased revenues or decreased costs.
Regardless, using multiple species to capture these benefits is not always sunny days. Including additional species on the ranch will add
Accurate identification of sheep
A Sheep Electronic Identification (EID) system uses an electronic ear tag or device, marking each animal with its own, individual identifying number. There are many potential flock and cost management benefits of EID for producers to utilize on the farm.
The EID tag or device contains a microchip that can be read electronically in a fraction of a second by producers who have a suitable reader (panel or handheld). With electronic reading, transcription errors can be eliminated saving both time and labor in the yards [and barns] whilst increasing the accuracy of your information.
Individual animal management
Within a flock there is a substantial variation in the characteristics that influence an animal’s production level. Identifying and Continue reading →
Make sure your sheep and goats have access to plenty of clean fresh water on hot, humid days.
Extreme heat is stressful to livestock, as well as people. High temperatures are even more problematic in states like Michigan, because high temperatures are also often accompanied by high humidity. The heat index (temperature plus humidity) is a more accurate measure of heat stress than temperature alone. Continue reading →
This article discusses the benefits of composting small ruminants and how to do it.
Unfortunately, mortality is a reality of any livestock operation. But is it possible to turn this loss into some form of gain? The answer is yes! “The Bodies of Dead Animals Act” (BODA); Act 239 of 1982 and as amended is Michigan law that stipulates legal means of mortality management. Under BODA, there are six alternatives to disposal including: burial, incineration, rendering, landfill, composting, and anaerobic digestion. Composting is Continue reading →
As with any business, successful sheep operations routinely take time to inventory their resources and opportunities. This information can then be used to make changes (if warranted) in their operation to meet market demands. This may be done in a formal process but is more likely to be a continual process.
The sheep industry is changing. Sheep numbers in most of the United States are decreasing. Many flocks are being dissolved or decreased in size. This is especially true in the western states. One of the resulting effects has been a decrease in the availability of feeder lambs, making it harder for lamb feeders to purchase the number of feeder lambs they need.
This opens up the opportunity for sheep producers in Wisconsin to produce feeder lambs for sale to lamb feeders. Other factors making this possible are: Continue reading →
Last week we highlighted the topic of rearing lambs artificially and how this may be more common than one may think in highly prolific and accelerated systems. This week we thought that it would be beneficial to introduce some of these accelerated lambing systems. Sponsored by the American Sheep Industry’s Let’s Grow program, Dr. Richard Ehrhardt with Michigan State University tours four accelerated flocks across the nation and discusses the benefits and challenges of these systems. Be sure to check this quick clip out!
Artificial lamb rearing: Transitioning from nuisance to potential profit center.
(Image Source: Balancing Rock Farm)
Let’s face it, every shepherd has experienced at least once the joys and pains of raising orphan lambs. Raising lambs artificially may be the result of mis-mothering, losing a ewe due to health and/or birthing complications, lack of colostrum, lambs that can’t be cross fostered, or simply due to ewes giving birth to larger litters. Yes – you read that correctly, some sheep breeds have litters! Raising lambs artificially can be challenging as it becomes a full time job. To avoid digestive upset, young lambs should be fed in small meals multiple times per day just as they would with the ewe. However, this may not always be practical for the producer. When this becomes the case, these lambs may be consider a nuisance to some. However, Continue reading →
Have your pastures began to green up with the recent warm temperatures and as a result have decide to turn your animals out onto pasture? When is the last time that you checked the fence line along the tree or property line? Do you use some form of electric fence to keep livestock in and wildlife out? As we begin to plan for the 2020 grazing season, the quality of your fence will play a huge role in the success of your grazing season.
Here are seven of the most common errors in livestock fencing, and how to avoid them.
This article discusses how to successfully graft lambs unto another ewe.
(Image Source: Michigan State University)
Grafting is the process of assessing milk/colostrum production in ewes and matching lambs to supply. Grafting lambs is an effective means of efficiently raising “extra” or “bonus” lambs and maximizing flock productivity. It is also a vastly underutilized technique for many reasons. One is simply lack of know-how. Another is lack of milk/colostrum in ewes due to chronic disease such as ovine progressive pneumonia (OPP) and/or because of undernutrition. In addition, the opportunities for matching graftee lambs to surrogate ewes can be Continue reading →
Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)
Weaning is when the milk is removed from the diet of a young mammal. Usually – but not always – it coincides with separation of the young from their dam. Weaning age varies greatly in sheep and goats, from as early as 14 days to natural weaning, at more than four months of age. Lambs have been successfully weaned as early as 14 days; kids as early as 28 days. Early weaning is usually defined as weaning prior to 90 days of age; 60 days is most common. Late weaning is anything after that.
Wean by weight
It is generally better to wean based on weight rather than age. A general recommendation is Continue reading →
This article talks about when newborn mortality occurs and how to prevent it.
“What is a reasonable mortality rate for lambs?” This is a question frequently asked by many producers. However, the answer is not straightforward, as it depends on many factors including lambing rate, management practices and production system. Producers commonly ask this question to determine if they have a problem, but looking at overall lamb mortality without considering the farm’s production figures and its specific patterns of loss is not very useful. A better approach would be to begin by identifying the pattern of loss and their magnitude. These patterns may show some variation from year to year, but it is common that farm-specific patterns emerge. Some losses can be greatly reduced with Continue reading →
Lambing Management: Frequent visits to the lambing barn
Dystocia has been shown to be a significant cause of lamb mortality. Losses due to stillbirths and dystocia can be reduced by frequent visits to the lambing barn and timely assistance of ewes. Pregnant ewes should be checked every 3-4 hours. If ewes are checked at 11 p.m. or midnight, it is not necessary to check again before 5 or 6 a.m. Ewes that will lamb between these times usually show signs at the late night observation. The lambing area should be dry and well bedded, and sources of cold drafts that will chill newborn lambs should be eliminated. It is not necessary to have a heated lambing barn- a dry, draft-free area is most important. The lambing process can vary considerably between ewes. Ewes in labor should Continue reading →
Most sheep producers strive to reduce lamb crop mortality associated with late gestation and newborn lambs. Some consistently keep losses between 5%-10%, while others in a similar production system are 15% or greater year after year. Sheep respond to management more than any other domestic specie, which is apparent during the critical periods that effect lamb mortality. Keeping detailed flock records during lambing season can document the sources of lamb mortality.
The most important step to reduce lamb mortality is to evaluate key production records from current and past lambing seasons. The key benchmarks to monitor are: Continue reading →
Although this piece was originally published over 20 years ago, it still holds a lot of valuable information. As we enter the new year, lambs will be soon arriving and with the business of life it’s easy to forget some of the basics. No worries though, this piece will be sure to assist!
Having the barn ready before the first lambs arrive is one way to get the lambing season off to a good start. Not all ewes have a 150-day gestation period. There is considerable variation in Continue reading →
Dr. Jessica Williamson, Extension Forage Specialist, Penn State
(Previously published in Feedlot Magazine)
Storage losses of uncovered hay can be upwards of 30%!
On most livestock operations, the greatest operational cost is stored and harvested feed, so it only makes sense that striving to reduce storage and feeding losses of harvested feeds as much as possible can help improve forage quality, quantity, and overall profitability of an operation. Reducing waste, even by a few percent, can have a direct reflection on farm financial status almost immediately. Dry hay has the potential to meet most ruminant livestock nutrient requirements if Continue reading →
Jacci Smith, OSU Extension Educator ANR/4-H, Delaware County
Just imagine: It’s the middle of February, minus 4 degrees outside, and 3:00 am. You roll out of bed, put on your coveralls and boots. Open the door to go check that ewe that wasn’t acting quite right at chore time. That bitter cold hits you in the face and boom you are wide-awake. Once you get to the barn, you look around and there is no lambing action. So you trek back to the house, take off your winter gear and try, and fail, to get back to sleep.
This is why the invention of barn cameras was so vital. Lambing season is a time of year that we all need to be on the top of our game. When you are run down without the proper sleep, this might not be the case. Barn cameras can be an amazing tool that shepherds can have if the right steps are taken. Continue reading →
Grafting (Fostering) is an alternative for producers who do not enjoy raising lambs on artificial milk. The ability to graft, or switch, a lamb from one ewe to another is a management tool that can save many lambs during a lambing season.
Grafting works best when you have a number of ewes lambing at the same time. When grafting, we are asking one ewe to adopt or accept another ewe’s lamb or lambs. Grafting can be done for many reasons. Examples of situations where removal of one or more lambs will benefit the lambs and the ewe are: Continue reading →
As we made the trip this morning to the Eastern Agricultural Research Station (EARS) in Belle Valley, Ohio to begin our fall grazing project, I found it fitting to share this video. In 1977, the highlighted handling system in this video was one of a kind in the east and many others began to take notice. Its amazing how handling equipment, techniques, and products used over the years have changed, yet at the same time many of the behavioral theories on how to work animals remain the same. At The Ohio State University, we strive to continue educating ourselves and our producers on the newest technology and latest management practices available. With this film dating back 42 years ago, I think its time that we make an additional one. To this day, sheep production continues to maintain a strong foothold in the great Buckeye state and we are grateful to be a part of it.
When winter and cold weather arrive goats and sheep spend more time indoors. With this change in management comes needed attention to airflow and adequate ventilation of animal housing.
During different parts of the year producers have many creative and practical solutions to animal housing. Living in Pennsylvania, winter is the focal point for producers to pay maximum attention to housing details. During this time is when animals are moved to a more confined housing situation, with limited access to a dry lot for exercise. In consideration of that fact, it’s important to not only consider if there is enough floor space, bunk space, feeding space, and lighting, but also if there will be adequate ventilation. Continue reading →
American Lamb Board
(Previously published in the ASI Weekly Newsletter – September 6, 2019)
Outcomes from the inaugural American Lamb Summit were clear: all segments of the industry need to further improve lamb quality to keep and attract new customers and become more efficient to recapture market share from imported lamb. Yet, it was just as clear that production technologies and product research put industry success within grasp.
“I have never been so enthusiastic about our industry’s opportunities, but we just can’t allow ourselves to be complacent or accept status quo,” said Dale Thorne, American Lamb Board chairman, a sheep producer and feeder from Michigan. Thorne stressed, “the end-game is profitability for all aspects of our industry.” Continue reading →
2019 Lamb Carcasses Final
For those directly involved in the livestock business, exhibiting your animals at the county, state, or national level is always an exciting venture. In Ohio, the Ohio State Fair is a great opportunity to allow our youth to showcase their summers hard work by exhibiting their market lamb projects. While winning a purple banners is the goal for most, we must not loose sight of what the ultimate end product will be from our livestock projects. This year, our team was able to capture the carcass results from the Breed Champion Lambs at the Ohio State Fair in real time using this unique video. Remember, regardless of the species, your livestock project goes beyond ring appeal. For those of you with questions regarding carcass quality and evaluation, feel free to contact us. Enjoy!
Years like 2019 can test farmers and ranchers to the brink of insanity. People in this profession must be resilient to the unpredictability of weather, markets, and the general chaos of life. All year thus far, we have discussed many ways to adapt our animal feeding programs, pasture systems, and hay production to the far from ideal conditions we are facing.
By now, I hope you have read articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, talked with your neighbors and your local Ag. Extension educators about what to do next. Crop selection, site management, and soil health have been huge topics addressed regarding cover crops for prevent plant acres, damaged pastures, weeds, poor quality hay, feed shortages, and much more!
Tony Nye, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Clinton County
Having issues with your pastures? A soil test is always a great place to start!
Now is the time to start assessing the overall conditions of your pastures to decide what management steps must be taken to continue having a productive pasture for the coming year. Looking at the overall pasture composition becomes an important step to determining if any improvement is necessary.
What is the percent of bare ground exposed? Is it due to heavy traffic, over grazing, poor drainage or poor fertility? What is the amount of grass to legumes throughout the pasture? Do you have a lot of weeds? These are some important questions that we need to ask ourselves as we continue to battle challenging pasture and weather challenges this year. Continue reading →
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County
Wheat fields are finally turning green. As we do stand evaluations, many producers are weighing poor stands versus their need for livestock bedding. As you weigh your options, be sure to consider alternative agronomic crop fodder or cover crops as a bedding source. The two most common beddings, wheat straw and sawdust, are both already in short supply across the state of Ohio.
Precut Rye Straw
The first harvestable option is to look at cover crops you or a neighbor have planted. One option that has gained some popularity is precut rye straw. If your wheat stand is present, but not thick enough to take to head, you could follow these same principles making Continue reading →
Callie Burnett, M.S. Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Clemson University
(Previously published in AGDAILY: March 29, 2019)
The importance of water as a factor in livestock production.
Although it’s “officially” spring according to the calendar, it may be a bit too early for me to extend my congratulations to you for making it through what many of us would call a rough winter. We’re close, but I certainly don’t want to jinx it. Depending on where you’re located, winter is still hanging around and with winter weather comes the not-so-joyous task of “breaking the ice,” literally. If you’re a herdsman or livestock producer, it’s very likely that you’ve had to spend a decent portion of your early mornings breaking ice in buckets, stock tanks, waterers, and the like. Sometimes, despite our greatest efforts, those things just aren’t able to stand up to the (sometimes below) freezing temperatures. Continue reading →
Success and long-term viability for most agricultural enterprises ultimately hinges on the health of their soil. This is true for beef operations in the Southern Great Plains to row crop farms in the Midwest.
For decades, the agriculture industry has focused, studied, and ultimately understood the physical and chemical characteristics of our soil resource (e.g., soil texture, soil pH, etc.). However, until the past few years, little emphasis has been placed on the biological constituents and their importance in a healthy, functional soil. Continue reading →
Marcus Tainsh, Pesel & Carr (on behalf of Agersens)
Amber Robinson, The Ohio State University Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team
Agersens to work with The Ohio State University to to test eShepherd in the U.S. beef, dairy, and small ruminant industries.
Agersens and The Ohio State University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paves the way for the two organizations to implement research trials to determine the efficacy and economics of the eShepherd system for local conditions.
eShepherd is a smart collar system for livestock, enabling producers to create “virtual fences” and use their smart device to remotely fence, move, and monitor their livestock around the clock from anywhere in the world. Continue reading →
For those of you that followed us on Facebook (OSU Sheep Team) last week, you may have noticed that our postings were a bit different than usual. Over spring break I had the great opportunity to help lead the study abroad trip, Scotland Ruminants. Over the course of our eight day trip, 36 undergraduate Animal Sciences students and 3 advisors toured Scotland’s countryside learning everything from veterinary school opportunities at the University of Glasgow to ruminant production systems in Scotland which included the sheep, goat, beef, dairy, and for our pseudo ruminant friends, alpacas along with much more!
If I were to talk about each part of the trip, you may be reading this for a while. So, with that, I’d like to take a few minutes to compare and contrast Scotland’s sheep industry to ours here in the States. While at the university of Glasgow, Continue reading →
A few simple steps preparing for weaning can minimize the stress to both ewes and lambs in your flock.
A few simple steps will help these lambs, and their mothers, get through weaning with a minimum of stress.
Ewes baaing, lambs crying, and shepherds wishing for quiet: will the noise never cease! These are all signs that weaning is commencing. However, some of that baaing and crying can be minimized if shepherds take a few simple steps to prepare for weaning. And, this can limit the stress to both ewes and lambs in the flock.
As a sheep or goat producer, you know that the health of your animals is essential for optimum performance and profitability. You will likely use 4 of your 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, and hearing) in detecting disease or injury of your livestock. Building skills and knowledge to quickly identify signs of poor health of your livestock can help in their early treatment and recovery. Some individuals have the innate ability to interpret signs and symptoms of animals while other people have to work at mastering the interpretation of different situations. Take notes or photos of normal and abnormal animal conditions as these could help you improve your skills and abilities. Organize this information to help remember past circumstances and treatments. Several tips to help you interpret normal and abnormal health conditions of sheep and goats are listed below for your possible use. This list may be helpful when discussing sick animals with your veterinarian over the phone. Continue reading →
Tube Feeding Neonatal Small Ruminants: An Essential Skill for Sheep and Goat Farmers
(Image Source: Dr. Susan Kerr – Washington State University)
Lambing and kidding are well under way. It is essential that sheep and goat producers learn how to tube feed young animals. This simple procedure can often save a young animal’s life, thereby increasing lambing and kidding crop rates and enhancing profitability. With a brief amount of instruction and a little practice, even children can perform this crucial task quickly, safely and effectively.
The reproductive performance of ewes is certainly an economically important trait in any commercial enterprise. Attention should be paid to the care of pregnant ewes and their lambs before, during and after birth.
Ensuring the nutritional demands of ewes during each stage of pregnancy, will result in the greatest “return on investment” in terms of maximizing the reproductive performance of sheep and in improving lamb survival.
Convincing a reluctant new dam to accept an orphaned or rejected lamb or kid can be tricky. Many strategies for “fostering” or “grafting” are frustrating and too often unsuccessful. A technique called vagino-cervical stimulation (VCS), a.k.a. birth canal stimulation, can be helpful and increase the rate of successful grafting. The goal of VCS is to convince the ewe or doe’s body and brain that she is giving birth to another infant. When done correctly, she will bond as strongly and quickly to the grafted lamb or kid as she would to an infant just born to her.
This technique requires a ewe or doe that has given birth within the last 24-26 hours. The more recently she has given birth, the easier the task will be for all involved. Success rates also increase with decreasing lamb or kid age. It is best if the lamb or kid to be grafted is covered in amniotic (birth) fluid. If the lamb or kid is Continue reading →
Heather Hamilton, editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup
Article compiled from Journal of Animal Science articles from K-State and the University of Missouri
(Previously published on the Wyoming Livestock Roundup)
Although Ohio and Wyoming weather conditions may differ, this weekends cold spell put shepherds to the test as lambs continued to hit the ground. Ensuring that our small ruminants have an ample supply of fresh water is on every producers check list, but monitoring water temperature may not be. Water temperature may play a bigger role than you thought before. To learn more, be sure to read on below!
It’s cold during Wyoming winters and producers utilize many production practices to reduce weather impacts on livestock. Providing warm water to livestock during cold months is an option that can increase water intake and reduce energy needs. Continue reading →
Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)
(Image Source: Biotic Industries)
One of the outcomes of having a high lambing/kidding percentage (greater than 200%) is that you may end up with some lambs/kids that you have to raise artificially. While some ewes/does will be able to raise triplets (even quads), sometimes it may be necessary (or wise) to remove lambs/kids from large litters in order to obtain more satisfactory weight gains.
There are different opinions as to which offspring should be removed for artificial rearing. Traditionally, it was recommended that Continue reading →
Winter Feeding of Sheep and Goats: General Rules of Thumb for Gestating and Lactating Females
Knowing the nutritional requirements of females during the various stages of production allows producers to ensure females are performing at optimal levels. Since females are typically in late gestation and/or lactating during the winter months, when their nutritional needs are the highest, it is even more important to ensure the females are obtaining the proper roughages and/or grains in their diets. Below are Continue reading →
Proper newborn lamb care is a critical component of flock profitability. In the U.S., lamb mortality from all causes is approximately 20% with more than 80% of those losses occurring in the first two-weeks following lambing. Yet a solid lamb care management plan coupled with a few key tools in the lambing barn can sharply improve the number of lambs reared per-ewe. Generally, the top causes for newborn lamb losses are starvation, hypothermia (cold stress), respiratory disease, and scours followed by injury. Theoretically, these categories each stand alone, however the reality is often two-or-three of these occur simultaneously. Producers that develop a lambing time-management plan to incorporate appropriate lambing tools and gain key skills on newborn lamb care will benefit from less labor input and expense with a greater number of lambs weaned. Continue reading →
On my way into the office last week, the radio broadcaster made the comment that we are experiencing January like temperatures here in December and I’d have to say that I couldn’t agree more. With this comment, I started to think about how shepherds are managing their flocks with the recent fluctuations in temperature coupled with a shortage of pasture and quality hay. I image that many are turning to feeding concentrate diets, which certainly isn’t a problem, but can become costly when feeding potential cull ewes.
A cull ewe is a female within the flock that is no longer benefiting your operation. This ewe may have failed to become pregnant (open) or has some other underlying issues that are not allowing her to perform to her greatest potential. With Continue reading →
Helpful tips on how properly mange your flock in preparation for the upcoming lambing season. Remember, be sure that you have all of the necessary tools and equipment needed for a successful season ready prior to the first lamb hitting the ground!
Most goats and sheep spend most of their time outside, but livestock that live outside may need special care when the winter weather sets in.
All animals need some kind of shelter even if it is only a windbreak. They need a place where they can get out of the wind. Shelter can include a building, a three-sided shed or even just a tree line. Ideally, goats and sheep should have access to some type of free choice shelter with a roof so they can get in out of the rain and snow. Continue reading →
Last week, Scott shared his thoughts on how to manage the ewe flock during mid to late gestation. Join us this week as Scott provides some helpful tips to think about as many approach pre and post lambing here in Ohio.
Lambing season is fast approaching. Management of the flock around lambing time is critical to ensure a health, vigorous lamb crop. The following are some important considerations as lambing season commences:
Some important topics to consider with the beginning of lambing season just around the corner.
Proper management and nutrition of the ewe flock during mid and early lactation are critical for optimizing flock productivity and profitability. Balanced nutrition, coupled with proper management during gestation is important for fetal development, lamb vigor and survival at birth. Additionally, proper nutrition during gestation is important to prevent nutritional disorders which may impact the health and performance of the ewe and her lambs, and influences milk production of the ewe.
There are several factors that affect the nutritional needs of the ewe during gestation, with primary considerations for: Continue reading →
Dwight Lingenfelter, Extension Associate, Weed Science, Penn State University
William S. Curran,Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Weed Science, Penn State University
Fall is an excellent time to manage biennial and perennial weeds. In particular, biennials such as common burdock, wild carrot, and bull, musk, and plumeless thistles are much easier to kill while they are in the rosette stage of growth, prior to surviving a winter. Once biennials start growth in the spring they rapidly develop with the goal of reproducing and it becomes more difficult to control them.
As you have heard many times before, late summer and fall is the best time to control most perennials with a systemic herbicide they move into root systems allowing better control. In general, the application window runs from Continue reading →
Record keeping is certainly not one of my favorite tasks related to raising sheep, but it certainly is necessary. In order to have a good handle on some of your production practices, you need to review your records on a regular basis. This includes not only financial records for filing taxes, but your production records for evaluating the sheep flock.
One of the most important indicators of profitability in a sheep operation is the lambing percentage. There are a couple figures to consider with the lambing percentage. First, start with the number of lambs produced compared to the number of ewes that lambed. Then, look at the number of live lambs at birth as well as the live lambs a month after lambing and the number of live lambs at weaning. Compare this to the number of ewes that lambed to calculate some percentages.
Fence care can make tempers flare between neighbors. Typically, when neighbors have similar goals, an agreeable strategy for fence maintenance can be worked out easily. When land use pursuits differ, there is a higher likelihood for conflict.
One of Ohio’s oldest rural laws is built around the care of partition fence. Ohio R.C. Chapter 971 defines a partition fence or “line fence” as a fence placed on the division line between two adjacent properties. In 2008, the law was updated to state “Partition fence includes a fence that has been considered a division line between two such properties even though a subsequent land survey indicates that the fence is not located directly on the division line.”
If both neighbors utilize the fence for similar purposes then the responsibilities are typically split evenly, which includes Continue reading →
Stephen Herbert, Masoud Hashemi, Carrie Chickering-Sears, and Sarah Weis in collaboration with Ken Miller, Jacqui Carlevale, Katie Campbell-Nelson, and Zack Zenk, UMass factsheet editors
(Previously published as a factsheet by the University of Massachusetts with UMass Amherst Outreach UMass Extension)
Sheep can acclimate to stiff weather conditions with no shelter if they have access to forage, water and protection from the wind. It is recommended that housing be available when lambing occurs during the winter months. Housing usually improves the number of live lambs per ewe. During the summer months, shelter is generally not required although some breeds will seek shade to be protected from the heat.
Housing facilities for sheep do not need to be elaborate or expensive. Old sheds and barns can be excellent housing and usually can be easily renovated to improve the management of the operation. There are many alternatives other than Continue reading →
The purpose of this article is to examine the pros and cons of each system and how they can fit individual producers goals and operations. Neglected in this discussion is fall lambing, which is not an attempt to minimize this as a viable management system. Fall lambing is viable, with the proper genetics and feed resources.
Early or Winter Lambing
Early lambing systems have some definite advantages over other systems. High on the list is labor availability. Many farmers don’t have as many demands on their time during winter as they do during spring. Fieldwork, planting, calving, etc., are all time-consuming and high input periods. There simply may not be enough time to lamb out a bunch of ewes. This is a real and practical consideration, since Continue reading →
Glen Arnold, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Manure Nutrient Management
(Image Source: North Dakota State University Extension)
When spring arrives, both large and small livestock owners with pen-pack manure are looking to apply the manure as soon as field conditions allow. Across the state I have seen stockpiles of pen-pack manure outside of sheep, horse, cattle, and dairy buildings. The nutrients and organic matter in pen-pack manure are an excellent addition to farm fields.
We always want to keep water quality in mind when handing manure. The goal is to make good use of the manure nutrients and keep those manure nutrients out of streams and ditches.
Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Henry County
Rookie Shepherding 101
Last summer when my younger brother moved out of our parents’ house and on to a 25-acre farm just six miles down the road, we decided to get into the sheep business together. Growing up we had experience with beef cattle and hogs and quite honestly sheep were an afterthought until the purchase of this small farm. The previous owners had had a couple of horses and had row cropped the majority of the farm. After some research and number crunching, here are 6 things that we considered as first time shepherds. Continue reading →
Reggie Voyles, undergraduate research intern, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Mark Honeyman, professor, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Iowa State University, Northwest Research Farms and Allee Demonstration Farm ISRF05-29, 31
(Previously published on Talking Sheep – Sheep Education and Information: March 28, 2018)
As the demand for niche-marketed meats increases, so does need for research in this area. One niche market that is being examined is pork raised in deep-bedded systems. There is also a call for alternative bedding materials. Farm produced bedding sources such as cornstalks and various types of straws are commonly used. However, this study looked at other possible materials. Products were Continue reading →
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 →
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.
Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Marion County
Rearing Lambs Artificially
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
“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 →
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 →
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 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
There are many factors that affect lamb survival. Serious shepherds should consult the Sheep Production Handbook, produced by the American Sheep Industry Association (www.sheepusa.org), 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
As many producers near the end of lactation, it is time to remind ourselves about an appropriate pre-weaning and weaning plan to prevent loss of udders due to poor weaning management. The current SID book has these weaning recommendations: Continue reading →