Pasture Rental Leases as Unique as Snowflakes

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: December 26, 2023)

Leasing a pasture is a common practice regardless of where you hang your hat. What isn’t common is for any two pasture rental agreements to be exactly alike. This is because no two pastures and their associated infrastructure (buildings, water sources, livestock working facilities, and fencing) are the same.

“For every pasture rental agreement, there are at least two viewpoints,” notes Andrew Griffith, an extension agricultural economist with the University of Tennessee (UT). “The landowner needs a rental rate that pays for all annual costs associated with owning the land, plus being compensated for the assets and resources on the property. The potential tenant is concerned with the resources available on the property and how they will contribute to generating revenue in the livestock operation.”

Griffith lists some of the resources that influence the rental rate include the grass stand and the types of forages; fences and cross fences; water sources and Continue reading

Winter Management Tips for Sheep and Goats

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: December 14, 2018 and December 19, 2018)

As cold weather approaches, it is important to consider the comfort of the sheep and goats we care for.

Winter can be a stressful time for livestock. As owners, we need to help to reduce that stress by providing proper care, feeding, and management practices. Adjusting management practices will help to ensure that sheep under your care will thrive through the cold winter months.

Sheep should be given some kind of shelter even if it is just a tree line or wind block. Shelters can include barns or three sided shed. Shelters should have adequate ventilation so that moisture does not build up and cause respiratory problems for the sheep. Hair sheep and wool breeds that have been recently shorn require more shelter than animals with longer wool. Ewes that are lambing during the cold winter months should be housed in a barn and check regularly. Newborns must be dried quickly after birth as hypothermia can set in quickly. Avoid damp, dark, or drafty barns, and wet muddy areas in or around buildings. Young lambs are able to withstand cold temperatures quite well, but drafts and dampness can lead to losses from baby lamb pneumonia. Heat lamps can be used to help keep lambs warm, although care must be taken to prevent electrocutions and/or barn fires.

Sheep require Continue reading

The Beauty of Baleage

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: September 28, 2021)

Baleage or Failage? When feeding small ruminants, baleage management and quality have to be just right!

Baleage. Can it be fed to small ruminants? Yes, yes it can! For those that are curious about how to implement this feeding strategy into your operation, be sure to check out this quick piece from the folks at Hay & Forage Grower as well as joining us at Ohio Sheep Day this Saturday, October 2! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Somewhere between the territories of making dry hay and chopping haylage is the land of baleage. Its acreage is expanding at a rate that would gain compliments from the former Macedonian king and conqueror of all things land, Alexander the Great. Of course, Alex is no longer with us to offer such kudos or much of anything else, for that matter.

As one prominent beef seedstock producer told me a few years back, “Baleage is a game changer for the beef industry.” But baleage making is not limited to beef production. Dairy producers and many custom harvesters [including those that feed sheep and goats] are also members of the Baleage Fan Club. Continue reading

General Sheep Health and Management

Thomas R. Thedford, Extension Veterinarian, Oklahoma State University
Bill Crutcher, Purebred Flock Manager, Oklahoma State University
Joe Hughes, Extension 4-H Livestock, Oklahoma State University
Gerald Fitch, Extension Sheep Specialist Specialist, Oklahoma State University
(Previously published online with Oklahoma State University Extension: February, 2017)

The key to any successful livestock health and management program is planning. The guidelines in this fact sheet were developed for your use with this concept in mind. All matters concerning disease prevention and diagnosis should involve your veterinarian. If health problems exist, a postmortem examination can be conducted and tissues selected for submittal to a diagnostic laboratory as an aid in securing a diagnosis. The veterinarian can also advise you about specific vaccination programs for your area.

Ram Management Continue reading

How to Detect Poisonous Weeds in Your Pasture

Tony Nye, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Clinton County

(Goat demonstrating signs of cyanide toxicity)

On many livestock operations, pastures are a very important part of the production process. Every year, I get questions regarding weeds that have been found in and around pastures. The common questions include “What kind of weed is this?” and “Is this weed poisonous to my livestock?”

Several plants that were not intended to be in the pasture and hay fields sometimes find their way there. Some of these plants are potentially toxic to livestock and are still toxic after being baled into hay.

The toxic compounds in plants are usually a defense mechanism against predation and have a distinct, unpleasant odor or a bitter taste and are not preferred by grazing livestock.

Consumption of these unpalatable plants will increase under some circumstances, primarily if Continue reading

Feed for Profit: Mineral Supplementation

Dale Engstrom, M.Sc., P.Ag, Alberta, Canada
(Previously published in Sheep Canada Magazine: May 6, 2014)

I am often asked about using free-choice loose and block minerals. Are they needed? Do they do a good job of providing essential nutrients to sheep? Are they cost effective?

Let’s start by reviewing what minerals are. Minerals fit into two classes: major (or macro) minerals and trace (or micro) minerals.

Major minerals are those that are measured in feedstuffs and reported in requirement tables as percentages (parts per hundred). For example: alfalfa hay may contain calcium in the amount of 1.6% of the dry matter, and a mineral supplement may contain 16% calcium.

Trace minerals are measured or required and reported in Continue reading

Grazing Corn Stalks with the Ewe Flock

Dan Morrical, Extension Sheep Specialist, Iowa State University
Joseph Rook, Extension and Agriculture Experiment Station, Michigan State University
(Previously published with MSU College of Veterinary Medicine – Sheep publication: December 10, 2008)

Ewes can utilize corn stalks for most, if not all of their daily nutrients if:

  1. quantities of stalks are adequate
  2. weather conditions allow grazing
  3. fencing is available
  4. weathering causes minimal deterioration of quality
  5. you have enough sheep to fully utilize crop residue.

The major concern with introducing ewes to harvested corn fields is grain overload with rumen acidosis and overeating disease. Acidosis resulting from grain overload can be minimized by gradually introducing ewes to corn stalk fields. When ewes are initially turned into stalk fields they should have restricted daily access of one to two hours on stalks. Offering ewes a small amount (~0.5 lb.) of corn for three to seven days before grazing will also help to minimize problems with grain. Vaccination against Continue reading

Planting Fall Cover Crops

Sarah Noggle, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran, OSU Water Quality Extension Associate, Paulding County

We are now approaching the time of year to think about planting fall cover crops. Cover crops can serve many purposes, ranging from erosion control to nutrient sequestration. Depending on the type and species of cover crop, benefits range from providing a Nitrogen source, scavenging nutrients to decrease leaching potential, acting as a soil builder, preventing erosion, fighting weeds, acting as a forage, conserving soil moisture, and enhancing wildlife habitats.

Benefits of certain types of cover crops:


  • Can be used as a Nitrogen source due to their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil
  • Many have good or excellent forage value, such as many clover species, alfalfa, and winter pea Continue reading

Control of Sheep Pests

Ralph E. Williams, Extension Entomologist, Purdue University
(Previously published online as a white paper with Purdue Extension, Purdue University)

(Image Source: Purdue Extension, Purdue University)

Sheep Keds and Sheep Lice
Sheep Keds
The sheep ked (Melophagus ovinus), often called the sheep “tick”, is a common pest of sheep. It looks somewhat like a tick but is actually a wingless fly, grayish-brown in color and 1/4 inch long. Its entire life cycle is spent on the host, except when accidentally dislodged; and it will readily crawl from one animal to another.

Sheep keds live 6-8 months, during which time the female produces about 15 young at the rate of approximately one a week. Breeding is continuous, although slower in winter; and there are several generations each year. Unlike most insects, the female gives birth to fullgrown maggots, one at a time, which are attached to wool strands about the neck, inside the thighs and along the belly. Within a few hours after birth, the larval skin turns brown and forms a hard puparium. Fully developed keds Continue reading

Minerals and Vitamins for Sheep

Dr. Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist – Sheep, Virginia Tech
Mark L. Wahlberg, Extension Animal Scientist, Virginia Tech
(Previously published on the Virginia Cooperative Extension web page)

(Liebig’s Barrel – Liebig’s Law of the Minimum)

Proper animal nutrition means giving the animals the proper amount of all nutrients necessary for optimum production. This involves knowledge of the nutrients themselves, factors that affect the requirements of animals, and the feeds used to deliver those nutrients. Cost is always a consideration for profit-motivated producers. This interplay of factors can become very intricate, but it need not be.

For the ewe flock, proper nutrition involves giving animals all the good quality forage they want, and supplementing that with nutrients that may be deficient. So the basics of Continue reading

Silage – Part 2: Making More Sense Than Ever for Sheep Production

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: May 20, 2015)

Forms of silage
There are primarily two types of silage products fed to sheep: baled silage and precision-cut silage. Baled silage is simply large bales, round or square, baled when the forage is wilted and covered with stretch wrap plastic. As previously mentioned in Silage – Part 1, this means waiting much less than dry hay, only until the forage is around 40-60 percent moisture – under ideal drying conditions, this is often means cutting in the morning and baling at night. Silage makes it possible. Continue reading

USDA Announces Details of Direct Assistance to Farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

USDA Press
(Previously published on USDA Media Press Release page: May 19, 2020)

Farmers and Ranchers to Receive Direct Support for Losses Related to COVID-19

(Image Source: National Center for Appropriate Technology)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need. Continue reading