Pre-Breeding Management of Rams and Ewes

David C. Van Metre, DVM, DACVIM Extension Veterinarian, Colorado State University
(Previously published online with Veterinary Extension through Colorado State University)

Important notes for both spring and fall breeding!

The pre-breeding period is defined as the 8-10 week period prior to the first day that rams are turned out with the ewes. Although it is traditionally a relatively quiet period for the sheep producer, the pre-breeding period involves multiple physiologic processes in the ram and ewe that can significantly impact fertility during breeding season, and therefore can subsequently impact the size and uniformity of the lamb flock. During this period of time, the sheep producer can conduct a few fairly simple management practices to ensure that the ram and ewe flock are in optimal physical condition for breeding.

Pre-Breeding Evaluation of the Ram Flock
Creation of sperm in rams requires approximately Continue reading

2021 Small Ruminant Webinar Series: Commercial Sheep Culling Criteria

In Webinar #3 of the 2021 OSU Small Ruminant Webinar Series, Dalton Huhn, Research Assistant at the OSU Eastern Agricultural Research Station, gives viewers an overview of the culling criteria used to maintain the flock at the research farm.

Thank you all for joining us for the 2021 OSU Small Ruminant Webinar Series! If you have any comments on how we can improve or ideas for future webinars, please contact Brady Campbell at campbell.1279@osu.edu or Christine Gelley at gelley.2@osu.edu

Critical Nutrition Inputs for Ewe Nutrition

Dr. Dan Morrical, Extension Sheep Specialist, Iowa State University
(Excerpt previously published during the 2017 Virginia Shepherd’s Symposium)

Introduction:
Sheep nutrition and feeding is extremely critical to the success or failure of the ewe flock enterprise. As shepherds our task is to provide balanced rations to meet the ewe’s nutrient requirements on the least costly basis. Feed costs account for half the cost of producing lamb and wool. Therefore, cost control must always be foremost in the shepherd’s mind. Sheep enterprises face a greater challenge in meeting needs of the flock because of the large within flock and between flock variations. This paper reflects the general guidelines for feeding ewes; however, each operation must adapt and modify these guidelines for their specific operation.

Nutrient Requirements:
The amount of nutrients the sheep require is affected by several factors. These include ewe age and weight along with Continue reading

Lambing and Kidding Simulator

Looking for tips and tricks on how to deliver lambs and kids in difficult situations? Practice makes perfect! Be sure to check out OSU Extension’s Jacci Smith as she demonstrates how to work through some of these difficult situations using a visual simulator.

Tips for Improving Out-of-season Reproduction

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: January 27, 2020)

By now, 2020 fall lambing is a task of the past with lambs weaned and either sold at the sale barn or retained for feeding. Before winter and spring lambing floods our minds, now is an appropriate time to take a minute to review the fall lambing season. For most, fall lambing in 2021 is in the far distance; however, timely planning now will foster future improvements.

This article provides tips for improving out of season reproduction in sheep.

Lamb supply is seasonal in nature and is explained largely by the seasonal nature of sheep reproduction, yet demand for product is present year-round. In order to meet market demand, deficits in supply are met by imported product and by domestic lamb feeders who hold lambs to extend the season of supply. In some parts of North America, the holding of lambs has hurt product quality, as lambs entering the market are often overly fat and mature. Another strategy to fill in gaps in supply and to avoid product quality concerns is through out-of-season lamb production. Out-of-season production allows lambs with the optimal degree of maturity to be harvested throughout the year. This strategy, when combined with a decrease in the production birth interval, is referred to as accelerated production. Accelerated production has the potential to increase production efficiency and simultaneously remove the constraint caused by seasonal supply. Continue reading

Neonatal Lamb Management: Intraperitoneal Injection of Dextrose (Glucose)

Adapted from ‘What You Need to Know About Lambing’ presentation by Dr. Ileana Wenger.
Article, Text, and Tables provided by: Alberta Lamb Producers Factsheet
For additional information: Consult with your local veterinarian and/or additional neonatal management resources provided by Alberta Lamb Producers.

(Image Source : Farm Advisory Service)

Most lamb deaths that occur shortly after birth are due to starvation and/or hypothermia (low body temperature). These losses are most often preventable, and lambs can be saved if problems are identified and treated quickly.

Why is timing important?

  • Newborn lambs rely on reserves of brown fat as an energy source until they ingest colostrum. Ideally, lambs will nurse and receive colostrum within two hours of birth. If feeding is delayed, even by a few hours, fat stores will be depleted. Unless the lamb nurses, or receives another source of energy, it will become unconscious and die.
  • Long-term survival also depends on receiving colostrum soon after birth, as the ability to absorb antibodies in colostrum quickly decreases. Milk or milk replacer will prevent starvation but will not protect against infections.
  • The sooner an ‘at risk’ lamb is identified, the easier the treatment and the greater the chance of saving the lamb.

Continue reading

Supplement Energy to Ewes in Late Gestation

Dr. Benjamin Wenner, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

As we approach the winter lambing season in Ohio, producers have a variety of approaches to feeding pregnant ewes. Those who believe underfeeding their ewe will decrease fetal size are partially correct (as addressed in the ASIA Sheep Production Handbook, 2002), but the likelihood of decreasing dystocia with underfeeding is nearly nil. In a 2007 review of lambing data, late gestation energy supplementation could account for increasing fetal weight by roughly ½ lb. (Gardner et al., 2007). Certainly, there are many other factors leading to dystocia that deserve consideration before a ½ lb. increase in lamb birth weight garners attention. Twinning alone can reduce birth weights (despite increasing ewe conceptus weight and energy requirement) and thus practices to achieve greater fertility in your breeding flock are a wiser pursuit than trying to nutritionally limit birth weights during gestation. Continue reading

Spider Syndrome in the Sheep Flock

Gerald Q. Fitch, Extension Sheep Specialist, Oklahoma State University
(Previously published with Oklahoma State University Extension: March, 2017)

(Image Source: Thompson and Dittmer, 2008)

Spider Syndrome is a genetic problem, common in the Suffolk breed and becoming more common in the Hampshire breed. Spider syndrome has been compared to dwarfism in beef cattle. It has been prevalent since the 1950s. Spider syndrome has also been diagnosed in commercial flocks that keep brockle-faced lambs back as replacement ewes. Those ewes are coming from Suffolk or Hampshire rams that carry the syndrome. Researchers feel certain that spider syndrome is caused by a simple, autosomal, recessive gene. If a producer has a flock of carrier ewes and breeds them to a carrier ram, one-fourth of his or her lamb crop could have spider syndrome!!!

Diagnosis
Spider lambs are affected in one of two ways: 1) lambs are abnormal at birth and will probably never be able to stand, or 2) lambs appear normal at birth, but develop into a spider lamb at two weeks to six weeks of age.

Spider lambs usually Continue reading