Energy Intake and Protein Concentration Effects Lamb Performance and Visceral Organ Mass

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As summer approaches, I can’t help but to think about the upcoming breeding sheep show season, when will Mother Nature let us to make our first cutting of hay in southeastern Ohio, and the number of lambs that are on feed in the state of Ohio. For those producers that are feeding out lambs, I have a few management questions to ask. Currently, how are you feeding your lambs? Are your lamb’s offered ad libitum access to feed all day or are you feeding your group of lambs at a specific rate (i.e. percent of body weight)? When formulating your rations, how are you determining the percent protein needed in your lamb diets? Are you feeding Continue reading

The Effects of Finishing Diet and Weight on Lamb Performance, Carcass Characteristics, and Flavor

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The beauty of the small ruminant industry is that producers are able to capitalize on niche markets that surround religious holidays. Unfortunately, it is clear that the price of lambs at the sale barn has dropped as seen in recent market reports, with the conclusion of Christian and Orthodox Easter’s as well as Passover. Checking the calendar, it appears that we are approaching both Ramadan (month of fasting beginning May 6) and Eid al-Fitr (June 5-7). The occurrence of these religious holidays may allow for the lamb market to see an increase in market prices, but many fall and winter born lambs in the eastern US will also be entering the market as they approach finishing weights and in turn may flood the market. Therefore, as a producer, it is important to have a marketing plan in mind when making breeding decisions for proper lambing dates.

Aside from religious holidays, lamb Continue reading

Management Practices that can Affect the Flavor Intensity of Lamb

Jerad Jaborek, Graduate Research Associate, The Ohio State University

Now is the time of year when the majority of winter lambs are being weaned. After weaning, these lambs will be sold at the sale barn

or retained on the farm to be placed on feed to reach market ready weights. Have you ever considered that the way we manage these lambs will affect the flavor intensity of the sheep meat produced from these lambs?

According to 2015 National Lamb Quality Audit, which conducted surveys with people working in the lamb supply chain (retailers, food service, and purveyors) to rank the importance of quality attributes. Eating satisfaction was the most important attribute to survey participants and was commonly defined as the Continue reading

How can Delayed Weaning Benefit your Operation?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

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

How do Finishing Diet Combinations Affect Lamb Performance and Tissue Growth?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For those shepherds in the state of Ohio that retain their lambs and finish to a market weight, a high concentrate finishing diet is commonly used. High concentrate diets are favored by producers as these types of diets allow producers to raise their lambs indoors away from predators, at a low cost when grain prices are low, and allow their lambs to reach a market ready weight at an earlier time point when compared to forage fed lambs. However, in today’s market, the production of grass-fed meat products receives a premium. Therefore, in order to capitalize on these premiums, some producers may choose to produce grass fed or pasture raised lamb.

When switching to alternative backgrounding and finishing diets, it is important to understand Continue reading

What Finishing Diet Should I Feed my Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Do lambs perform and hang better carcasses when grazed on grasses, legumes, or fed an all concentrate diet?

Before to asking these questions, producers must first determine the goal of their operation. Resources such as land, labor, time, and money all play a critical role in the daily management of an operation. In today’s society, there are two types of consumers. Those that want access to quality protein sources at low prices, and those that are willing to pay a premium for specialty products (i.e. grass-fed lamb). When grain prices are low, it may be more economical for producers to finish lambs on grain. However, in order to reach a premium through specialty markets, producers may choose to finish their lambs on pasture. Regardless of which finishing strategy is chosen, producers need to understand both Continue reading

De-worming Lactating Ewes May Contribute to the Development of Parasitic Resistance

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Animal production losses associated with internal parasitic infection continues to be of great concern in the small ruminant industry. This is due to the development of parasitic resistance to chemical de-worming products.

For example, when a de-wormer is given at a lower dose than what is recommended on the manufactures label, the parasite in the treated animal may not receive an effective or lethal dose. A concern with treating lactating ewes is that Continue reading

Winter Feeding Systems, Which is the Best for You?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The effects of winter feeding systems in gestating sheep on ewe and lamb pre-weaning performance.

As the breeding season comes to an end and winter approaches, it is important to consider how pregnant ewes will be managed as lambing season approaches.

There are several options available to producers for winter feeding strategies such as stockpiling forages on pasture, stored hay, grains, and recently the use of byproducts. Winter feeding can be a challenge as providing enough energy to meet the maintenance requirement of the gestating ewe and growth of the fetus becomes difficult.

Image Source: University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Department of Animal Sciences

In order to determine the effects of Continue reading

How Does Harvest Weight and Diet Affect Carcass Characteristics?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The most common method for finishing lambs in the United States is the use of a high concentrate diet. Although high concentrate diets allow for lambs to be finished at a younger age, one down fall of this feeding strategy is that lambs may to accumulate an excessive amount of carcass fat. An alternative method to finish lambs would be the use of pasture. Forage fed lambs develop less carcass fat, but require a longer period of time to finish and are harvested at an older age when compared to concentrate fed lambs. In order to determine which feeding strategy will yield the greatest amount of marketable product, a comparison of light and heavy weight lambs on two different diets has been summarized.

In order to make this comparison, lambs were harvested Continue reading

What Benefits are Gained by Processing Grain Fed to Sheep?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

How does corn processing and fiber source affect feedlot lamb performance, diet digestibility, nitrogen metabolism?

(Image source: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)

Behaviorally, sheep and cattle are very different, especially in the way they eat. Sheep are more selective in their eating pattern and spend more time physically chewing and breaking down their feed than cattle do.

Regardless of the animal we are feeding, it is common practice in the livestock feed industry to process the grains fed to our animals. An issue with feeding processed grain is that due to an increase in surface area, the starches in grain become more readily available for the animal to digest. As a result, an increase in digestion may lead to metabolic issues such as acidosis in our ruminant species.

Therefore, a question of interest that arises is can sheep be fed unprocessed grains without Continue reading

What Flooring and Bedding Materials are You Using in Your Feedlot?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

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

The Future of Finishing Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Can the implementation of growth promotants or forage grazed finishing diets increase lean muscle gain in lambs without increasing carcass fat?

Marketing lambs at a high lean to fat carcass ratio is important in producing consistent and quality retail lamb products.

Lambs fed high concentrate diets finish at a younger age when compared to forage fed lambs. However, lambs fed high concentrate diets accumulate more carcass fat than lambs on grazed forage diets. The use of either growth promotants or forage finishing diets may provide producers with Continue reading