Summer Grazing with Winter Confinement (Intensive Management) of Sheep

Marie S. Bulgin, DVM, MBA, DACVM, University of Idaho
(Previously published in the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual: June, 2016)

These types of sheep enterprises tend to use veterinary services the most. Smaller backyard producers may use veterinarians to perform procedures such as vaccinating, docking/tailing, castrating, and hoof trimming as well as to treat sick animals. However, larger producers in many countries often perform these routine procedures themselves, using veterinarians for such things as cesarean sections and help with disease control.

Wool production is usually a minor concern on the smaller production units; the number/pounds of lambs marketed per ewe joined/bred is the major determinant of economic return. The greatest potential loss is caused by neonatal lamb mortality, resulting from abortion, mismothering, starvation, and hypothermia. Second to that may be lack of growth weight due to internal and external parasites, protein deficiency, and lack of highly digestible and palatable feed for young lambs. Intensive management and Continue reading

Need More Hay or Silage Storage? Consider a USDA Farm Storage Facility Loan

Eric Richer, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Fulton County

For many farmers and ranchers, on-farm storage is a key part of a comprehensive commodity marketing plan and improved feed storage. University research and practical experience has shown that forage feed quality is significantly better and storage losses are much lower when stored inside out of the weather (see Hay Storage Considerations, OSU 21-96 Fact Sheet). A unique farm program administered through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) is the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program.  FSA is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which uses this program to provide low-interest financing for producers to store, handle, and/or transport eligible commodities they produce. Many livestock and/or forage producers do not realize that flat storage and bunker-type storage structures are eligible as well as the associated trucks and handling equipment. Overall, the list of eligible commodities, facilities, equipment, and upgrades is quite impressive. Generally, they include the following: Continue reading

Livestock Fencing and Watering Systems

As my family and I spent part of our weekend mending and building new fence, I was sure to reference this video from OSU Extension’s very own Ted Wiseman. Did you know that staples can be either right or left handed? Or that they should be put in at a specific angle in order to work properly? Do you know how deep a corner post should be in relation to the length of the horizontal brace post? Let’s not forget about water! Do you know the maximum distance livestock should travel to get to fresh, clean water? To save yourself many headaches this spring, this video is well worth the listen as you begin turning livestock back out to pasture this spring.

Fasting Sheep Before Shearing

American Sheep Industry
(Previously published in the Sheep Industry News: February 2022)

Whatever your thoughts on fasting sheep, there’s no doubt your shearer will thank you for keeping the flock off feed and water before shearing. More importantly, your sheep will thank you, too. While there are various views on fasting, the benefits to sheep and shearer are significant, and backed by research.

The ASI Code of Practice for the Preparation of Wool Clips and even ASI’s Sheep Production Handbook don’t go into much detail about why fasting is important, but both call for sheep to be penned anywhere from 4-12 hours before shearing. And both recommend keeping sheep off feed and water while penned before shearing.

So, why is it important? First and foremost, for the health and safety of both the sheep and the shearer. If the gut of the sheep is full, it can add significant weight to the sheep, placing additional downward pressure on the sheep’s organs when in the shearing position causing discomfort and stress to the sheep. In turn, this often causes the sheep to not only be uncomfortable, but to kick and struggle more, leading to even more stress to the sheep.

Also, if sheep Continue reading

Udder Health in Ewes: Mastitis, Udder Scores, and Management

Isabel Richards, Veterinary Science – South Africa and owner/operator of Gibraltar Farm
(Previously published with the Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK): February 28, 2022)

(Image Source: Alba et al., 2019)

Ewes only have two teats and hopefully raise at least twin lambs, so maintaining healthy udders and culling ewes with udder problems is important to minimize lamb losses and bottle lambs while ensuring optimal growth of lambs on your farm. Mastitis leads to lower weaning weights in lambs of affected dams, takes time and money for treatment, as well as slowing down genetic progress due to forced culling of ewes. Rates of mastitis are variable across different farms. It is important to keep track of the percentage of ewes that get mastitis each year or are culled for lumpy udders or poor milk production. You can then intervene as soon as you start seeing an increase in cases, and can track the success of interventions if you do have an issue with mastitis on your farm. Management as well as genetic selection (udder conformation) can also be used to improve udder health in your flock.

Mastitis
Mastitis is an infection/inflammation of the udder and can be either clinical (you see abnormal milk, swollen udder, sick ewe) or subclinical (milk and ewe look normal but you can culture bacteria from milk, there are white blood cells in the milk and lambs just do not grow as well). If you are seeing a lot of mastitis on your farm or if you are starting to see increased rates, it is important to culture milk from affected ewes so you can get a better idea of how to Continue reading

A Flood of Litter

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

One of the many challenges of flooded conditions is dealing with the garbage that is often swept into crop fields and pastures along with the water. It certainly is frustrating to watch the water recede and leave a trail of litter tangled in crop residue and fence lines. As disheartening and downright gross it is to walk the trail and gather other people’s garbage, it is important to make sure litter is removed promptly to prevent further issues at a later time.

Along with being unsightly, this litter may be accidently ingested by livestock if it is baled in hay or harvested with grain and can cause damages to equipment if it becomes entangled. Ingested metals and plastics can lead to a variety of digestive problems that can cause chronic struggles, acute illness, and/or death. Animals that have a digestive obstruction may Continue reading

Precision Flock Management

For those that are interested in moving your operation forward in terms of facilities, management, record keeping, and anything between – this presentation by Canadian sheep producer Patrick Smith is well worth the listen. In his presentation Patrick provides an inside review of his operation including the practices that work and those that he’d like to change. Near the end of his presentation, Patrick also discusses facility design which may be of most interest to those looking to expand. Enjoy the talk and please reach out if you would like to discuss details on your next improvement project within your own operation!

Weaning Management for Goat Kids

Ontario Goat
(Previously published online with Ontario Goat: 2020)

Weaning, or transitioning from a milk-based to solid diet, is one of the most stressful events in a kid’s life. It is not uncommon for kids to grow more slowly, stop growing, or even lose weight at weaning. This is referred to as “weaning shock”. Strategies should be implemented to reduce any negative effects that may arise as a result of weaning to protect health and welfare while maintaining growth. In meat goats, weaning may occur at the same time the kid is separated from the doe, causing additional stress. In dairy goats, maternal separation and weaning are usually separate events. This article covers strategies for weaning kids from milk who are already separated from their dam.

There is some evidence that dairy kids grow very well if provided with milk until 84-112 days (12-16 weeks) of age. The increase in growth at a younger age may allow replacement doelings to reach breeding weight at a younger age, reducing the cost of raising them. Producers must decide if the potential increase in growth and future milk production outweighs the cost of additional milk or milk replacer.

Preparing for weaning
Preparing kids for weaning should start early. Kids must be exposed to Continue reading

Indoor Housing Systems for Sheep and Goats

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

“What type of barn do I need to raise XXX ewes/does indoors?” This question and many others similar to it have been common place over the past year and for good reason. Take a look at the market price for any type of sheep or goat on the auction block today. Feeder lambs, fat lambs, and finished kids are bringing record prices and have continued to sustain these values well beyond the holiday season. These unique opportunities present our industry with some interesting challenges as higher feeder lamb prices make it difficult to buy and feed lambs for the finished market. It also makes it difficult to hold onto a group of replacement females when you could capitalize on the profits of the slaughter market. Additionally, cull ewes prices are up which makes culling this year easier than ever. However, what hasn’t been immediately considered is the effect of culling a large number of ewes. My question is – will this decision further complicate supply chain issues in the near future? With this background, its no wonder why my leading question is of great interest to producers from across the nation. Raising small ruminants indoors improves overall animal management, thus leading to improved efficiency resulting in more lambs and kids available for market. Continue reading