Limited Goat, Lamb Production May Improve ’24 Prices

David P. Anderson, Livestock Marketing Specialist, Texas AgriLife and Texas A&M university
JJ Jones, Area Agricultural Economics Specialist, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics
(Previously published online with: Farm Progress, Southwest FarmPress: January 25, 2024)

2023 lamb and goat prices lagged behind the record-high prices of 2022. Based on limited production in 2024, prices have the opportunity to rise.

The past year was difficult for lamb and goat prices. Early 2022 saw record-high prices, but they collapsed in the year’s second half. It took until the second half of 2023 for prices to increase above the year before, but they still lag well below the earlier record highs. Prices have the opportunity to grow in 2024 based on limited production.

Lamb outlook
Several factors worked in the lamb’s favor to allow prices to slowly climb much of the year. Lamb imports were the lowest since 2019. The amount of lamb in Continue reading

Manage Feed Costs by Evaluating Hay Waste

PennState Extension
(Previously published online with PennState Extension: May 26, 2023)
Sheep and goat operations all experience some amount of hay waste during winter feeding. Now is a good time to look back and evaluate how much hay was wasted.

The largest input cost for any livestock enterprise is feed costs. In forage dependent operations, most of these feed costs occur during the winter when feeding hay. Spring is a great time to assess hay feeding areas and consider how much hay the sheep or goats wasted over the winter.

Is there a large amount of wasted hay lying next to the hay feeders? Did pens inside the barn require minimal bedding last year due to the amount of hay waste? A “yes” answer to either of these questions should inspire producers to look more closely at feed quality and feeder design. Using feeders should be an obvious means to help reduce waste. Less obvious perhaps is the concept that feeders can also help to promote animal health. This occurs by preventing fecal or soil contamination that can lead to problems such as internal parasites, coccidia, or listeriosis. Hay losses can range from Continue reading

The Nuts and Bolts of EBVs

Eastern Alliance for Production Kathadins (EAPK) Communications Committee
(Previously published online with EAPK: November 17, 2023)

(Image Source: Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)

EBVs are tools that producers can use to select breeding animals that will help them meet flock goals for specific traits such as growth, milk, reproduction, parasite resistance and carcass quality. It is important to understand that selecting for extremes in one trait will often put negative selection pressure on other traits of interest. Often, animals with extremely high EBVs in certain traits will require additional nutritional support or better management to perform successfully at that level. In addition, some traits are antagonistic to other traits, meaning that if you select strongly for one trait you may be inadvertently reversing the progress you’ve made in other important traits. Traits that are directly measured (weights, FEC, Carcass) are generally more heritable than other traits such as milk and prolificacy. Below is a condensed description of EBVs, how they are measured and why they are important.

Maternal Weaning Weight EBV (MWWT):
MWWT EBV provides an estimate of the genetic effects of the ewe’s milk and mothering ability on the weaning weight of her lambs. A higher value generally indicates Continue reading

Where to Buy Sheep?

Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK) Communications Committee
(Previously published online with EAPK: June 23, 2023)

We often get asked “Where’s the best place to buy sheep?” A lot depends on your goals and what you’ll use the sheep for, but one thing is pretty much certain: Don’t buy sheep from the local sale barn. Below are some of the more common sale venues with some of the pros and cons listed.

Venue Pros Cons
On Farm
  • Often lowest cost option
  • Least chance of biosecurity issues
  • Least stress for animals
  • Ability to inspect the whole flock and observe management
  • Potentially more choices of one farm’s genetics
  • May allow better opportunity to develop relationship with seller, especially important if looking for a mentor
  • More flexibility on sale dates
  • Limited to only that farm’s genetics
  • Location (potentially)
  • If out-of-state, veterinary transport certificate may require additional time/expense
  • Seller may require cash-only payment
In-Person Breed Auctions
  • Wider range of options and genetics available in one location
  • Ability to physically examine and compare animals
  • Consigners usually bring their best to sell
  • Seller usually available on site to answer questions
  • Animals sell quickly by sale order
  • On-site veterinarian for transport certificates
  • Most forms of payment typically accepted
  • Mingling with other animals at sale increases biosecurity risks
  • Additional stress for animal (transport to sale; sale itself)
  • Competitive pricing
  • Consecutive bidding means you can’t go back and bid on an earlier animal if you get outbid later in the sale
Online Auctions
  • Potentially wider range of options and genetics
  • Consigners usually offer their best to sell
  • Simultaneous bidding allows you to bid on other animals if outbid on first choice
  • Length of sale allows time to plan bidding
  • Competitive pricing
  • Electronic payment usually preferred
  • Unable to handle or visually inspect animal
  • Seller may be difficult to reach for questions
Combination Auction – online auction with animals available in one location for inspection
  • Wider range of options and genetics
  • Ability to physically examine and compare animals
  • Consigners usually offer their best to sell
  • Simultaneous bidding allows you to bid on other animals if outbid on first choice
  • Length of sale allows time to plan bidding
  • Sellers usually available onsite to answer questions
  • On-site veterinarian available to provide transport certificates for animals located on-site
  • Mingling with other animals at sale increases biosecurity risks
  • Additional stress for animal (transport to sale; sale itself)
  • Competitive pricing
  • If buyer not in attendance or animal not on-site, must arrange transport
  • Acceptable forms of payment vary by sale

Regardless of where you choose to purchase sheep, keep in mind the basics. First identify your goals for your flock and farm, and develop a plan to reach those goals. Set a budget (and stick to it). Identify what specific traits you want to improve and/or downplay. Do your research – talk to the breeders, understand how their sheep are managed and their goals for their flock. Study individual animals offered for sale and remember there is no perfect animal.

Forage as Vegetative Cover for Utility-Scale Solar in Ohio

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County
James Morris, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Brown County
Eric Romich, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Energy Education and Community Development, OSU Extension
(Previously published online on Ohioline)

The Midwest has seen an increase in photovoltaic (PV) solar energy production over the past several years. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ohio. Traditional ground cover options for utility-scale solar projects includes stone, gravel, bare earth, and various types of turfgrass vegetation. However, as the buildout of utility-scale solar projects increases, many are exploring the feasibility of dual land-use strategies that incorporate agricultural and conservation practices with solar production. Popular examples include pairing solar production with specialty vegetable crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitats. However, as the size of utility-scale projects in Ohio has evolved from 100- to 200-acre projects into projects that are 2,000 acres or more, widespread integration of these practices faces real, common challenges:

  • Growing specialty crops is labor intensive, requiring access for many people within the utility-scale solar site.
  • Raising livestock requires massive herds, frequent watering, and additional fencing to rotate the animals.
  • Creating pollinator habitats requires expensive seed mixes and the control of noxious and invasive weeds.

This fact sheet provides developers and landowners information about alternative vegetative cover strategies—including forage crops—that prevent greenwashing opportunities while also offering legitimate benefits to the landowner and the solar developer over the project lifecycle. Topics include common vegetative cover strategies and how cool-season forage crops can provide the greatest environmental, social, and economic benefit. This fact sheet also summarizes the requirements of utility-scale solar vegetative cover, species selection, establishment, and site maintenance.

Read more….

Pasture Risk Management Decisions for Dry Weather

Clifton Martin, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Muskingum County

We just passed through a May and June that looked more like a July and August if we consider rainfall. Usually, July and August are more likely to put managers under pressure with hot temperatures and limited precipitation that force choices that might often be classified as “which wrong choice is the most right?” as we work to make the best of less-than-ideal conditions.

Timely rainfall is easing the current drought pressure that had been developing locally, but we still have a way to go for summer heat. As we navigate these choices, here are some points to remember.

A goal of managing grazing systems is to keep forage plants healthy and growing so that they meet the nutritional needs of grazing livestock. Two easy principles to follow on that journey are first, the “take half/leave half” concept and, second, provide a rest period so plants can recover.

These principles allow for pastures to Continue reading

Alternative Forages for Sheep and Goats in Drought Years

Don’t let the original title fool you. In general, alternative forages that can be used to alleviate feed issues associated with drought stress are for the most part universal. Look in at this quick clip from our colleagues at the University of Idaho Extension for some ideas on what you can do to improve your feed inventory this summer.