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

Falling Leaves Poison with Ease

Haley Zynda, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

Even though we’re only a couple weeks away from the true start of winter (hard to believe, I know), some trees are still clutching onto their leaves as if the dying foliage will be enough to fortify their soon-to-be bare branches against the frigid temperatures. It’s important to take note of the trees that have leaves yet to fall, especially if you house livestock outside in pastures or sacrifice lots. I’m sure most have heard of the dangers of black/wild cherry limbs and leaves for cattle, but there are several other trees and shrubs that can cause negative impacts on cattle, horses, sheep, and goats.

Wild Cherry. Poisonous to all classes of livestock, wilted cherry leaves and branches can cause prussic acid poisoning, the same poisoning as seen in frosted sorghum-sudangrass. It’s best to remove Continue reading

Valuing Bedded-pack Manure

Glen Arnold, OSU Extension Manure Nutrient Management Specialist, The Ohio State University

(Image Source: Ohio’s Country Journal)

Due to the increase in fertilizer prices, there is renewed interest in the nutrient value of manure. This article will discuss bedded-pack manures that involve straw, sawdust, or wood chips to absorb moisture. The nutrients and organic matter in pen-pack manure are an excellent addition to farm fields.

The most common types of bedded manure are beef, dairy, and sheep or goats. Small ruminant bedded pack manure contains the most nutrients per ton followed by beef manure and dairy manure.

Pen-pack manure contains the macro nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash along with a host of micronutrients. The nutrient content can vary depending on species, feed products fed, and the amounts of straw or sawdust used for bedding. The farm’s manure handling and storage practices also impact the nutrient content of manure. Manure stored under roof will Continue reading

Lactation Preparations for Small Ruminants

With many producers in the state of Ohio 4-8 weeks away from the beginning of their lambing or kidding seasons, we thought it would be timely to discuss the process of evaluating sound udders and how to prepare your stock for lactation. In Webinar #1 of the 2021 OSU Small Ruminant Webinar Series, Brady Campbell presented on the importance of colostrum and milk production. This ten minute segment focuses on preparing and managing females for the highly demanding time of lactation including nutrition and health management to ensure lambs and kids are off to the best start possible.

Forage Focus: Holiday Leftovers for Livestock

In this episode of Forage Focus, host Christine Gelley reviews how to use holiday leftovers for livestock. From food scraps to greenery, there are right ways and wrong ways to recycle parts of your holiday celebrations for the benefit of the animals in your care. Learn more about items that could be safety shared with pastured livestock and companion animals as treats and habitat enrichment.

Can I Afford to Fertilize my Hay?

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

With fertilizer prices on the rise and reaching levels not seen in years, some are wondering if they can afford to fertilize hay ground. Realizing we can’t starve a profit into livestock, or a hay crop, the answer is simple. We can’t afford not to properly and strategically fertilize a hay crop.

The operative word here is “strategically.” Let’s look at what that word might mean in the coming 2022 hay season.

First and foremost, now more than ever is the time to make sure we have up to date soil tests. We can’t manage what we haven’t measured and knowing the nutrient content of forage fields is critical to knowing which soil nutrients will offer the most return on investment.

Lime has gone up little if any, in price, in recent years. To optimize the efficiency of the fertility we do have

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Understanding How Animals Choose What to Eat

Kathy Voth, On Pasture Editor and Contributor
(Previously published in On Pasture: November 15, 2021)

In this month’s Thinking Grazier, Darrell Emmick points out the importance of understanding what a cow needs to be most productive and how she chooses those foods. It’s something I’ve studied for many years used to add nutritious foods to livestock diets.

If you’ve spent much time at all at On Pasture, you know I’m talking about weeds. They turn out to be highly nutritious, very resilient forages, and if your livestock ate them you’d have 43% more forage, and a lot fewer worries. All it takes are the simple training steps I put together, and in just eight hours spread over seven days, you’ll have weed eating livestock.

Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But it’s all based on three decades of research into how animals choose what to eat. I just read all the research, became a “Thinking Grazier,” and translated the science into something beneficial to graziers everywhere.

The foundation is an improved understanding of “Palatability”
Palatability isn’t a matter of taste. It’s really a result of Continue reading

Common Diseases of Goats

Joan S. Bowen, DVM, Wellington, CO
(Previously published in the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual: January, 2014)

Goats harbor several species of coccidia but not all exhibit clinical coccidiosis (see Coccidiosis). Adult goats shed coccidia in feces, contaminate the environment, and infect the newborn. As infection pressure builds up in the pens, morbidity in kids born later increases. Signs include diarrhea or pasty feces, loss of condition, general frailness, and failure to grow. In peracute cases, kids may die without clinical signs. Rotating all the kids through one or two pens is dangerous. To help prevent coccidiosis in artificially reared dairy goats, the kids should be put in small, age-matched groups in outside, portable pens that are moved to clean ground periodically. Eradication is not feasible, but infection can be controlled through good management practices. Coccidiostats added to the water or feed are adjuncts to a management control program and not substitutes. Chronic coccidiosis is one of the main causes of poor growth in kids and is responsible for the uneconomical practice of delaying breeding for a year until the goat has reached adequate size (70 lb. [32 kg] for dairy breeds). In Angora goats kept extensively, the problem is seen at weaning, when the kids are kept in smaller lots and fed supplement on the ground.

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Designing a Sheep Shed

One of the most common asked questions that I receive on a weekly basis revolves around the topic of indoor housing options for sheep and goats. Unfortunately, resources here in the United States are limited on this subject. Thankfully, other shepherds from around the world have already investigated this need. Although from the perspective on an Irish sheep system, Mr. Edward Egan of Teagasc nicely outlines the top 10 considerations involved in building or refurbishing an existing facility used to house sheep. Because of resources and climatic conditions here in Ohio, not all of the presented information may apply to our producers. However, this video does outline important factors such as feeding and floor space allotments, ventilation, and feeding system that can be used as you begin designing your new system. A word of caution, much of the information is presented in metric measurements, but don’t worry. Pause your video and do the conversions. I think that many of you will find these values of interest as they may be able to be used to improve  your current system. If nothing else, enjoy 10 minutes of pictures capturing alternative sheep production systems.

Scoring Pastures Yearly can Help Identify Trends

Tony Nye, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Clinton County
(Previously published in Farm & Dairy: October 28, 2021)

A well-managed pasture is both productive and sustainable. Important decisions such as livestock feed inventory, forage stand replanting, fertility needs, weed control, etc., all hinge on what we see in the pasture. That is why an objective evaluation of a pasture is a valuable tool.

Pasture condition scoring is a systematic way to check how well a pasture is managed and performing. If the pasture is located on the proper site and well managed, it will have a good to excellent overall pasture condition score.

By rating key indicators and causative factors common to all pastures, pasture condition can be evaluated and the primary reasons for a low condition score identified.

Conditions that can lead to one or more pasture resource concerns could include Continue reading