Breeding Season Considerations for Sheep and Goats

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

As fall season approaches, daylight begins to get shorter, and sheep/goats are ready for breeding. The breeding season should be an exciting time for producers because the number of lambs and kids raised and weaned successfully determines the profitability of the operation. Understanding the reproductive system of the animals helps to maximize the breeding season and use resources wisely. This is particularly true for beginning producers who are experiencing their first breeding season. The season of the year is the main determinant for sheep and goat reproduction, with the majority being seasonal breeders that cycle in the fall (their natural mating season) and lamb in the spring. However, some breeds will cycle in the spring and have lambs/kids in the fall.

Peak fertility is from late September through November. Ewes have an average cycle length of 17 days, with most being between 14 and 20 days, while does have an estrus cycle of 18 to 22 days, and they display estrus for 24 to 48 hours. The gestation period ranges between 144 and 152 days. Management practices for producers to ensure profitability during the breeding season are highlighted below. Continue reading Breeding Season Considerations for Sheep and Goats

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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Spring Lamb Management Tips

David Brown, Livestock Field Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
(Previously published online with the University of Missouri Extension: April, 2024)

Lambing can take place at different times of the year and there is no “one-size-fits-all” production system. Spring lambing has been found to be a more profitable production system when compared to fall and winter lambing because it takes full advantage of the spring and summer flush of grass. The abundance of spring forage lowers feed cost associated with processed feeds, saving the producers dollars that would have gone into feed purchases. Conception rates are much higher in spring lambing system because breeding coincides with their natural mating and lambing seasons. It is also less labor intensive and requires little equipment.

Spring-lambing takes place from March to May. Weaned lambs remain Continue reading Spring Lamb Management Tips

Top Tips for Healthy Lambs

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer
(Previously published online with Dakota Farmer: January 19, 2024)

Montana State Extension shares management practices for lambing and kidding.

With lambing and kidding season arriving to ranches, now is the time to evaluate management and facilities for a successful spring crop. Brent Roeder, sheep and wool Extension specialist at Montana State University, shared health management tips for lambs and kids during a recent producer-focused webinar.

Sheep and goats are management-responsive, with nutritional, environmental, or predatory stressors opening the door to disease.

“A lot of livestock management with Continue reading Top Tips for Healthy Lambs

Four Steps to Prepare for Small Ruminant Kidding and Lambing

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: December 13, 2023)

(Image Source: Michael Metzger: MSU Extension)

With kidding and lambing season right around the corner, owners should prepare their animals to get the best outcome.

Kidding and lambing season is here again and there are steps that owners should take to make sure their herd or flock is prepared. By taking the time to prepare, owners will mitigate issues that could arise, and they will be set-up for the best possible outcome. With proper care and planning, problems can be kept to a minimum as animals give birth.

Step one: Implement a vaccination program for your herd or flock
Four to six weeks before the animals are due to deliver, they should receive a booster with Clostridium perfringens type C and D and tetanus (CDT) vaccine and selenium and vitamin E (BoSe) if not providing selenium through feed or mineral mix. Continue reading Four Steps to Prepare for Small Ruminant Kidding and Lambing

Lambing and kidding Simulators

With lambing and kidding season approaching quickly, it’s never too early to be prepared. Whether you are a new or seasoned shepherd, we can all learn a thing or two when honing in our skills. For those interested in some visual and verbal practice as it relates to dystocia challenges, I encourage you to take 12 minutes over your lunch or in the evening to review how some of these difficult positions and challenges can be remedied yourself on-farm. Like what you see? Good news – our very own Jacci Smith, ANR Extension educator in Delaware County, will be traveling the Extension winter meeting circuit this year traveling with her simulator. Be sure to visit our page here weekly with announcements and updates on where you can catch her in-person next. Happy Shepherding!

Managing small ruminants to reduce complications at parturition

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: October 12, 2018)

Kidding/Lambing is a very stressful time for small ruminants. Proper management leading up to delivery can help to reduce complications.

Pregnant animals have a few very important needs that are different from other livestock. The start of care for a pregnant animal should begin well before the actual breeding takes place. Does and ewes need to have an acceptable body condition score (BCS). Body condition scores in sheep and goats range from 1-5. They need to be neither too fat nor too thin to be able to have a heat cycle, become pregnant, and continue to support a fetus or multiple fetuses. This means that producers must have an adequate nutritional program in place for their breeding herd or flock.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that Continue reading Managing small ruminants to reduce complications at parturition