Buying Rams, What are You Really Getting?

Rodney Kott, Extension Sheep Specialist, Montana State University
(Previously published on the Montana State University Animal and Range Sciences Extension Service page)

For those of you with lambs in the barn, are you happy with your lamb crop so far? Did you happen to use a new breeding ram this year? If so, what type of selection criteria did you use to select this ram? As we begin to think about the next breeding season, Rodney Kott provides us with some food for thought to use in selecting our next breeding ram.

Buying rams… Are we really getting what we see, or are we just getting a new coat of paint?

Commercial sheep producers sell their grass and labor in the form of lamb and wool. The value of saleable product produced on a given land area is a function of the quantity and quality of lamb and wool. Production efficiency and ewe profitability can be maximized by Continue reading

Breeding for Out-of-season Lambs to Fill in the Industry Gaps

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

A few months ago as a part of the ‘Let’s Grow’ initiative sponsored by the American Sheep Industry Association, Dr. Reid Redden, Sheep and Goat Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, presented a webinar focusing on the seasonality of the US lamb industry. This webinar was an overview of the recently published industry white paper that can be viewed fully by viewing this link. During his presentation, Dr. Redden covered both Traditional and Non-traditional markets that US producers have access to. He also presented several figures that outlined the time of year that lamb is most commonly consumed as well as when each specific cut of lamb is consumed. Rather than focusing on these highlights from Dr. Redden’s presentation, toady we will be focusing in on the production aspects of aseasonal or out-of-season breeding.

According to a 2011 USDA report, approximately 85% of all US lamb is produced Continue reading

To Breed or Not to Breed

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

Breeding ewe lambs and doelings.

Should ewe lambs and doelings be bred to produce their first offspring when they are approximately one year of age? Or should you wait until they are yearlings to breed them for the first time? The answer depends. There are many factors to consider and there are pros and cons to each breeding decision.

Breeding ewe lambs and doe kids allows you to exploit their reproductive and genetic potential. It is well-documented that ewes that are mated as lambs will have a higher lifetime production than ewes that are mated for the first time as yearlings.

One of the most compelling reasons to consider breeding ewe lambs and doe kids is Continue reading

Understanding Fall Lambing

Dr. Christopher Schauer, Director and Animal Scientist, NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center
Dr. Reid Redden, Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist, Texas A&M
(Previously published online with Extension)

(Image Source: North Dakota State University)

Fall lambing is a technique that can be utilized to capture additional productivity from many of today’s sheep breeds. Fall lambing has many positive attributes, including but not limited to, increased utilization of facilities and other resources, accelerated returns on animal investments, provide year-round supply of lamb, and provide options to lambing outside winter and spring months. The two negatives of fall lambing are lower conception rates and fewer lambs born per ewe lambing.

Most sheep will stop cycling when days start getting longer (Jan/Feb) and return to cyclicity when days start getting shorter (Aug/Sept). However, some breeds with naturally long breeding seasons (6-8 months), such as Dorset, Polypay, Rambouillet, Targhee, Katahdin, and Finnsheep, start cycling sooner and adapt to fall lambing with more success than short length breeding seasons (4 months) breeds. Selecting replacements from dams that have proven records of fall lambing will Continue reading

Ram Health: Pizzle Rot

Dr. John Martin, Veterinary Scientist, Sheep, Goat and Swine/OMAFRA
(Previously published on Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)

(Image Source: Renn-vue Farms)

Pizzle Rot in Sheep

To deal with the cause first. Like many conditions we see in sheep, pizzle rot is the result of an interaction between a bacteria and some other factor. The bacteria is Corynebacterium renale or one of that group. These bacteria have the ability to break urea down using an enzyme, urease. The other factor is an increase in the protein level of the diet, quite common in the month before breeding to improve the condition of the rams. Once the protein in the diet from all sources rises above 16%, urine can contain more than 4% urea. This excess urea makes the urine alkaline. The bacterial urease breaks down the urea to release excess ammonia. It is this ammonia that causes a severe irritation and ulceration of the skin around the preputial opening. Once the skin is ulcerated, C. renale or other bacteria will infect it. The debris Continue reading

There’s No Joke about Using a Teaser Ram

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As many producers are in the midst of preparing for the upcoming breeding season, there are many tasks that need to be completed before turning the rams in. Of course, decisions need to be made regarding mating pairs and when to start flushing the ewes, but in this process have you ever considered “jump starting” the cycling of your flock in preparation for breeding. With this, I have a few questions that I have to ask many of you. Have you ever introduced a teaser ram to allow your ewes start cycling and to shorten the breeding season? If you answered no to both of these questions, I’ll ask, why not? Continue reading

How are You Preparing for Breeding Season?

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

(Image Source: Premier 1 Supplies)

Throughout the year you make decisions to support or improve performance, but are there areas in your operation where you are overlooking some lost opportunities? Lost opportunities are those areas that could be tweaked to further improve production or performance. Let’s take a look at the breeding season to determine if there are opportunities to improve performance in that area.

A large factor that affects profitability in a sheep operation is the lamb crop. This involves anything from birth weights to growth to efficiency. Breeding season is a critical time so that we insure not only that ewes get pregnant, but that they also produce twins. We not only want high conception rates, but those conception rates need to be high during the first heat cycle.

Prior to breeding season, rams should be Continue reading

Webinar: Replacement Ewe Selection and Culling of Underperforming Ewes

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Last Tuesday evening, Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist from the University of Maryland Extension, presented a webinar entitled: Replacement Ewe Selection and Culling of Underperforming Ewes. The webinar was sponsored by the Let’s Grow Committee of the American Sheep Industry Association.

Susan has been with Maryland extension since 1988 and is a sheep producer herself. Susan emphasizes that it is the ewe that makes the money on an operation and therefore it is critical to assess the selection and culling criteria of your flock. Selection of the highest quality females is important in securing a progressive flock. She also expresses that any ewe that fails to raise a lamb (i.e. failure to conceive or does not raise the lamb) should be culled from the flock regardless of her status. To listen to Susan’s seminar, please follow the link provided below.

Replacement Ewe Selection and Culling Underperforming Ewes

Ram Management

Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator, Marion County

(Image source: Shearwell Data – marking harness)

To achieve maximal fertility, rams should be physically examined for reproductive fitness to detect abnormalities that may affect breeding performance.  A breeding soundness examination can be completed before breeding season.  The scrotum and its contents as well as the penis and prepuce must be carefully examined.  The size and symmetry of both testes and epididymides should be assessed, and both testes should be firmly palpated for consistency and resilience. Semen can be collected and evaluated to check potential sires, particularly in ram lambs.  All screening procedures should be done Continue reading

CIDRs Now Officially Approved for Sheep

FDA Announces the Approval of a New Product for the Management of Reproduction in Sheep
November 16, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today is announcing the approval of EAZI-Breed CIDR Sheep Insert (progesterone solid matrix) for induction of estrus in ewes (sheep) during seasonal anestrus. This progesterone Continue reading

Breeding Season Preparation

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

Reproductive performance is an important factor in determining profitability in the sheep flock. Most breeds of sheep have seasonal breeding patterns and the majority of flocks in Ohio are spring lambing. In this scenario, the peak fertility of the ewe is from late September through November. The breeding season will extend Continue reading