Optimizing Reproductive Efficiency in Sheep Production with Strategic Nutritional Management

This hour long webinar seems to be quite timely both due to the fact that fall breeding is well under way across the nation as well as many here in the Midwest are fully emerged in fall lambing. Nutrition is key when discussing the benefits and hardships of livestock production. For those that will be joining us for Ohio Sheep Day this Saturday, October 2, I encourage you to take some time to listen to Dr. Richard Ehrhardt as he discusses how to maximize nutritional management to improve reproductive efficiency. At Ohio Sheep Day, we will be discussing alternative forage and feeding options that can be implemented on farm to achieve these needs. We look forward to seeing you then!

That Time of Year Again

Haley Zynda, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

(Image Source: Michigan State University Extension)

As the days get shorter and the nights cooler, many shepherds are thinking about the upcoming breeding season. That is, if they haven’t already let their rams introduce themselves to the ladies. Breeding season is the exciting precursor and indicator of what kind of lamb crop you will have come spring. To ensure a successful lamb crop, there are a few things to consider and potentially remedy prior to letting the rams in with the ewes.

Rams
Just as bulls have breeding soundness exams (BSE), rams can go through a similar process to identify which rams should or should not be used. The Merck Veterinary Manual published a list of characteristics that need to be evaluated, the first of which is Continue reading

Small Ruminant AI Day in Licking County (August 21, 2021)

Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Licking County

(Image Source: K Bar K Farm)

Artificial Insemination (AI) results from a multi-breeder insemination day in Licking County.

The Licking County Sheep Improvement Association has been working with OSU Extension to provide the opportunity for multiple breeders to bring sheep to one location for artificial insemination. The August 2020 date marked the 3rd year of this event. Insemination of 104 sheep occurred during the 2020 event and included both fresh and frozen semen.

Below, breeding results from the 2020 event include the use of 20 different rams among 10 different producers. Continue reading

Crossbreeding for Profit

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

With breeding animal sale season upon us, now is the time to consider and finalize your plans for the 2021 breeding season. Acquiring breeding rams and bucks prior to use and need is critical as this time period allows for producers to both quarantine and acclimate newly purchased stock to their operations. For those with commercial based flocks and herds, crossbreeding may be your ticket to achieving greater growth efficiencies and price premiums.

Crossbreeding is probably the most misunderstood and underappreciated practice in commercial livestock production. Crossbreeding is the mating of males and females of different breeds or breed types. Purebreeding is the mating of individuals of the same breed or type. Crossbreeding is the recommended breeding strategy for commercial meat sheep and meat goat production.

As a breeding practice, crossbreeding does not Continue reading

Pre-Breeding Management of Rams and Ewes

David C. Van Metre, DVM, DACVIM Extension Veterinarian, Colorado State University
(Previously published online with Veterinary Extension through Colorado State University)

Important notes for both spring and fall breeding!

The pre-breeding period is defined as the 8-10 week period prior to the first day that rams are turned out with the ewes. Although it is traditionally a relatively quiet period for the sheep producer, the pre-breeding period involves multiple physiologic processes in the ram and ewe that can significantly impact fertility during breeding season, and therefore can subsequently impact the size and uniformity of the lamb flock. During this period of time, the sheep producer can conduct a few fairly simple management practices to ensure that the ram and ewe flock are in optimal physical condition for breeding.

Pre-Breeding Evaluation of the Ram Flock
Creation of sperm in rams requires approximately Continue reading

Tips for Improving Out-of-season Reproduction

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: January 27, 2020)

By now, 2020 fall lambing is a task of the past with lambs weaned and either sold at the sale barn or retained for feeding. Before winter and spring lambing floods our minds, now is an appropriate time to take a minute to review the fall lambing season. For most, fall lambing in 2021 is in the far distance; however, timely planning now will foster future improvements.

This article provides tips for improving out of season reproduction in sheep.

Lamb supply is seasonal in nature and is explained largely by the seasonal nature of sheep reproduction, yet demand for product is present year-round. In order to meet market demand, deficits in supply are met by imported product and by domestic lamb feeders who hold lambs to extend the season of supply. In some parts of North America, the holding of lambs has hurt product quality, as lambs entering the market are often overly fat and mature. Another strategy to fill in gaps in supply and to avoid product quality concerns is through out-of-season lamb production. Out-of-season production allows lambs with the optimal degree of maturity to be harvested throughout the year. This strategy, when combined with a decrease in the production birth interval, is referred to as accelerated production. Accelerated production has the potential to increase production efficiency and simultaneously remove the constraint caused by seasonal supply. Continue reading

Spider Syndrome in the Sheep Flock

Gerald Q. Fitch, Extension Sheep Specialist, Oklahoma State University
(Previously published with Oklahoma State University Extension: March, 2017)

(Image Source: Thompson and Dittmer, 2008)

Spider Syndrome is a genetic problem, common in the Suffolk breed and becoming more common in the Hampshire breed. Spider syndrome has been compared to dwarfism in beef cattle. It has been prevalent since the 1950s. Spider syndrome has also been diagnosed in commercial flocks that keep brockle-faced lambs back as replacement ewes. Those ewes are coming from Suffolk or Hampshire rams that carry the syndrome. Researchers feel certain that spider syndrome is caused by a simple, autosomal, recessive gene. If a producer has a flock of carrier ewes and breeds them to a carrier ram, one-fourth of his or her lamb crop could have spider syndrome!!!

Diagnosis
Spider lambs are affected in one of two ways: 1) lambs are abnormal at birth and will probably never be able to stand, or 2) lambs appear normal at birth, but develop into a spider lamb at two weeks to six weeks of age.

Spider lambs usually Continue reading

Increase Lamb Crop by Testing for Pregnancy


Reviewed by: Jay Parsons, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Bill DeMoss, Mountain Vet supply
(Previously published online with Agriview: September 5, 2019)

(Image Source: U.S. Lamb Resource Center)

Pregnancy detection in the ewe provides the opportunity to adjust nutritional and lambing management to save on feed and labor costs. The old adage that “one open ewe takes the profits of five producing ewes” may be true when all costs are calculated. Early determination of fetal numbers and gestational stage gives the option of sorting for nutritional demands in late pregnancy and early lactation. Without that information, the single-bearing ewe is being fed too much or the twin-bearing ewe too little. Open ewes are robbing the pregnant ewes of necessary nutrition. Grouping according to gestational stage will also save on labor and allow for better utilization of facilities and biosecurity.

The key in any type of business is producing an end product, or more simply put, production. The economic benefit of pregnancy testing in Continue reading