Nutritional Flushing of Small Ruminants – Preparing for Fall Breeding

Washington State University Extension, Animal Agriculture
(Previously published on the WSU Extension Animal Agriculture page)

Introduction
Flushing isn’t just an aspect of indoor plumbing—it’s also part of a well-managed flock’s nutrition and reproduction program. This article will address the why’s and how’s of flushing sheep and goats.

Flushing Defined
What is flushing, anyway? The term describes a temporary but purposeful elevation in the plane of nutrition around breeding time. Its objective is to boost ovulation, conception, and embryo implantation rates. Flushing may also increase the proportion of females that exhibit estrus. Boosting these rates increases lambing and kidding rates by Continue reading

Proper Handling of Livestock Vaccines

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

(Image Source: Susan Schoenian – Sheep 201)

Looking at a group of healthy sheep peacefully grazing while their lambs bounce around the pasture can be a very satisfying experience.

Proper handling of vaccines will help to insure that ewes remain healthy and produce healthy and vigorous lambs.

However, healthy animals don’t just happen, they take time and care. One step to keeping animals healthy involves vaccinating them to protect against disease. In order to accomplish good protection against disease, it is important to handle vaccines properly. Continue reading

Small Ruminant Abortion Panels

Dr. Jeff Hayes, DVM, MS, ADDL Pathology Section Head
(Previously published on the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory Newsletter, March 2019)

Abortions in sheep and goats are common submissions to the Animal Disease Diagnostic laboratory (ADDL), particularly in late winter and spring. The ADDL has assembled a multi-discipline diagnostic panel approach to guide practitioners on samples needed, tests offered to address most typical abortion-causing pathogens, and the cost of the workup. The goals are to present a thorough diagnostic plan that is expedient to collect, provide a working differential diagnosis, and that is done at an affordable price. Fresh samples that are most useful – required – include Continue reading

Weaning Practices that Limit Stress on Ewes and Lambs

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

A few simple steps preparing for weaning can minimize the stress to both ewes and lambs in your flock.

A few simple steps will help these lambs, and their mothers, get through weaning with a minimum of stress.

Ewes baaing, lambs crying, and shepherds wishing for quiet: will the noise never cease! These are all signs that weaning is commencing. However, some of that baaing and crying can be minimized if shepherds take a few simple steps to prepare for weaning. And, this can limit the stress to both ewes and lambs in the flock.

Weaning practices should Continue reading

Ag-note: Tools to Alter Breeding Management in Small Ruminants

Autumn Converse, Caitlyn Deeter, Taylor Klass, Jaime Uren, OSU Animal Science Undergraduate Students
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

CIDR and Light Management in the Breeding of Ewes
** Follow the link above to view the Ag-note.

As we approach the spring breeding season, many producers are already in the midst of either planning or preparing for their 2019 fall lamb crop. Outlined by a previous article here on the webpage, Breeding for Out-of-season Lambs to Fill in the Industry Gaps, fall lambing has several benefits including an increased premium due to the short supply of new born lambs during the fall. However, the production of fall lambs can be challenging as sheep do not commonly breed out-of-season. Sheep are known as short day breeders, meaning that their natural breeding period occurs in the fall with shorter days. Some breeds of sheep (i.e. Dorset and Polypay – to name a few) are known as seasonal breeders, meaning they do not have a set breeding season. Therefore, these breeds of sheep are able to breed outside of the fall breeding period and would be beneficial in fall lambing flock. However, what if you were interested in producing fall lambs from other traditional breeds that do not breed out of season naturally? Continue reading

Mastitis in Sheep and Goats

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: January 3, 2019)

Mastitis in sheep and goats is important because it can reduce productivity of the animals and farm profitability.

Mastitis is an important disease of sheep and goats because it decreases the amount and quality of the milk produced by a dairy animal and reduces weight gain in lambs and meat kids. It can also affect the animals well-being. Mastitis is an inflammation of udder. Physical injury, stress, or bacteria can cause mastitis. There are several bacteria which are known to cause mastitis in sheep and goats including Streptococcus sp., Staphylococcus sp., Pasteurella sp., and coliforms, such as E. coli. The exact type of bacteria that is causing the mastitis can only be determined by laboratory analysis. Mastitis can either be clinical or subclinical. Clots or serum in the milk are signs of Continue reading

Practical Aspects of Improving Lamb Survival

Matthew Ipsen, Nuffield Scholar
(Previously published online on Making More from Sheep)

The reproductive performance of ewes is certainly an economically important trait in any commercial enterprise. Attention should be paid to the care of pregnant ewes and their lambs before, during and after birth.

Ensuring the nutritional demands of ewes during each stage of pregnancy, will result in the greatest “return on investment” in terms of maximizing the reproductive performance of sheep and in improving lamb survival.

Improving the nutrition of pregnant ewes will Continue reading

A Biological Trick for Fostering Lambs and Kids: Birth Canal Stimulation

Natasha Pettifor, Cornell University, Department of Animal Science, PhD candidate
(Previously published on extension.org, September 22, 2015)

(Image Source: Natasha Pettifor, extension.org)

Convincing a reluctant new dam to accept an orphaned or rejected lamb or kid can be tricky. Many strategies for “fostering” or “grafting” are frustrating and too often unsuccessful. A technique called vagino-cervical stimulation (VCS), a.k.a. birth canal stimulation, can be helpful and increase the rate of successful grafting. The goal of VCS is to convince the ewe or doe’s body and brain that she is giving birth to another infant. When done correctly, she will bond as strongly and quickly to the grafted lamb or kid as she would to an infant just born to her.

This technique requires a ewe or doe that has given birth within the last 24-26 hours. The more recently she has given birth, the easier the task will be for all involved. Success rates also increase with decreasing lamb or kid age. It is best if the lamb or kid to be grafted is covered in amniotic (birth) fluid. If the lamb or kid is Continue reading

Buying Rams, What are You Really Getting?

Rodney Kott, Extension Sheep Specialist, Montana State University
(Previously published on the Montana State University Animal and Range Sciences Extension Service page)

For those of you with lambs in the barn, are you happy with your lamb crop so far? Did you happen to use a new breeding ram this year? If so, what type of selection criteria did you use to select this ram? As we begin to think about the next breeding season, Rodney Kott provides us with some food for thought to use in selecting our next breeding ram.

Buying rams… Are we really getting what we see, or are we just getting a new coat of paint?

Commercial sheep producers sell their grass and labor in the form of lamb and wool. The value of saleable product produced on a given land area is a function of the quantity and quality of lamb and wool. Production efficiency and ewe profitability can be maximized by Continue reading

Taking a Measured Approach to Lamb Production

Gail Keck
(Previously published in Ohio Farmer: December 20, 2018)

(Image Source: Ohio Farmer)

The first step in DNA analysis is linking a gene with performance characteristics.

Old photos on the office wall at Bunker Hill Farm show the Shultz family’s history of success in breeding and showing high-quality sheep. For most of the farm’s history, visual appraisals guided selection and breeding programs, but these days Bill Shultz and his wife, Susan, would rather rely on estimated breeding values (EBVs). Visual appraisals are still useful to spot lambs with disqualifying defects, but looks can be deceiving when evaluating growth rates, fat thickness, and Continue reading

Cull Ewe Checklist

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

On my way into the office last week, the radio broadcaster made the comment that we are experiencing January like temperatures here in December and I’d have to say that I couldn’t agree more. With this comment, I started to think about how shepherds are managing their flocks with the recent fluctuations in temperature coupled with a shortage of pasture and quality hay. I image that many are turning to feeding concentrate diets, which certainly isn’t a problem, but can become costly when feeding potential cull ewes.

A cull ewe is a female within the flock that is no longer benefiting your operation. This ewe may have failed to become pregnant (open) or has some other underlying issues that are not allowing her to perform to her greatest potential. With Continue reading

Infectious Causes of Abortion in Ewes

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

There are many things than can disrupt a healthy pregnancy in a ewe. While it is common for about 25% of embryos to die or be reabsorbed the first three weeks of pregnancy up to the time of implantation, these are the most crucial in establishing healthy pregnancies. The nutritional requirements of ewes during early gestation is only slightly more than maintenance requirements, but it is essential that the flock not be exposed to any undue stresses.

It appears normal for about 1.5 to 2.0% (up to 5%) of the ewes in a flock to abort. Abortion rates significantly above this level cut into profit potentials, as what may start out as a few isolated cases can quickly escalate into an abortion “storm,” resulting in 20-30% percent abortions or as high as 80% lamb mortality. Continue reading

Breeding for Out-of-season Lambs to Fill in the Industry Gaps

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

A few months ago as a part of the ‘Let’s Grow’ initiative sponsored by the American Sheep Industry Association, Dr. Reid Redden, Sheep and Goat Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, presented a webinar focusing on the seasonality of the US lamb industry. This webinar was an overview of the recently published industry white paper that can be viewed fully by viewing this link. During his presentation, Dr. Redden covered both Traditional and Non-traditional markets that US producers have access to. He also presented several figures that outlined the time of year that lamb is most commonly consumed as well as when each specific cut of lamb is consumed. Rather than focusing on these highlights from Dr. Redden’s presentation, toady we will be focusing in on the production aspects of aseasonal or out-of-season breeding.

According to a 2011 USDA report, approximately 85% of all US lamb is produced Continue reading

To Breed or Not to Breed

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Breeding ewe lambs and doelings.

Should ewe lambs and doelings be bred to produce their first offspring when they are approximately one year of age? Or should you wait until they are yearlings to breed them for the first time? The answer depends. There are many factors to consider and there are pros and cons to each breeding decision.

Breeding ewe lambs and doe kids allows you to exploit their reproductive and genetic potential. It is well-documented that ewes that are mated as lambs will have a higher lifetime production than ewes that are mated for the first time as yearlings.

One of the most compelling reasons to consider breeding ewe lambs and doe kids is Continue reading

Ram Health: Pizzle Rot

Dr. John Martin, Veterinary Scientist, Sheep, Goat and Swine/OMAFRA
(Previously published on Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)

(Image Source: Renn-vue Farms)

Pizzle Rot in Sheep

To deal with the cause first. Like many conditions we see in sheep, pizzle rot is the result of an interaction between a bacteria and some other factor. The bacteria is Corynebacterium renale or one of that group. These bacteria have the ability to break urea down using an enzyme, urease. The other factor is an increase in the protein level of the diet, quite common in the month before breeding to improve the condition of the rams. Once the protein in the diet from all sources rises above 16%, urine can contain more than 4% urea. This excess urea makes the urine alkaline. The bacterial urease breaks down the urea to release excess ammonia. It is this ammonia that causes a severe irritation and ulceration of the skin around the preputial opening. Once the skin is ulcerated, C. renale or other bacteria will infect it. The debris Continue reading

There’s No Joke about Using a Teaser Ram

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As many producers are in the midst of preparing for the upcoming breeding season, there are many tasks that need to be completed before turning the rams in. Of course, decisions need to be made regarding mating pairs and when to start flushing the ewes, but in this process have you ever considered “jump starting” the cycling of your flock in preparation for breeding. With this, I have a few questions that I have to ask many of you. Have you ever introduced a teaser ram to allow your ewes start cycling and to shorten the breeding season? If you answered no to both of these questions, I’ll ask, why not? Continue reading

How are You Preparing for Breeding Season?

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

(Image Source: Premier 1 Supplies)

Throughout the year you make decisions to support or improve performance, but are there areas in your operation where you are overlooking some lost opportunities? Lost opportunities are those areas that could be tweaked to further improve production or performance. Let’s take a look at the breeding season to determine if there are opportunities to improve performance in that area.

A large factor that affects profitability in a sheep operation is the lamb crop. This involves anything from birth weights to growth to efficiency. Breeding season is a critical time so that we insure not only that ewes get pregnant, but that they also produce twins. We not only want high conception rates, but those conception rates need to be high during the first heat cycle.

Prior to breeding season, rams should be Continue reading

Mastitis: An Issue Not to be Taken Lightly

Michele Marques, PhD student from the Animal Bioscience Program, Federal Rural University of Pernambuco – Brazil
Guilherme Moura, PhD student from the Animal Bioscience Program, Federal Rural University of Pernambuco – Brazil
Luciana da Costa, DVM, MSc, PhD, OSU Assitant Professor, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (da-costa.2@osu.edu)

Mastitis in Small Ruminants:

What is mastitis?
Mastitis in goats and sheep, similar to cows, is defined as inflammation of the mammary gland and can occurs due several factors, which may be infectious or not and may present in clinical or subclinical form. In clinical mastitis, it is possible to observe the signs of inflammation, such as: Continue reading

Shearing the Flock: When are you Shearing?

North Dakota State University
(Published in The Shepherd’s Guide – Supplement to The Shepherd Magazine)

Shearing sheep prior to lambing improves flock productivity. Shepherds have some simple ways to capitalize on one of the best lamb and wool markets the American sheep industry has seen. One of them is shearing sheep. It can have tremendous impacts on flock productivity, according to Reid Redden, North Dakota State University Extension Service sheep specialist. He recommends sheep producers have their sheep shorn 30 to 45 days before anticipated lambing for several reasons, including: Continue reading

Webinar: Replacement Ewe Selection and Culling of Underperforming Ewes

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Last Tuesday evening, Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist from the University of Maryland Extension, presented a webinar entitled: Replacement Ewe Selection and Culling of Underperforming Ewes. The webinar was sponsored by the Let’s Grow Committee of the American Sheep Industry Association.

Susan has been with Maryland extension since 1988 and is a sheep producer herself. Susan emphasizes that it is the ewe that makes the money on an operation and therefore it is critical to assess the selection and culling criteria of your flock. Selection of the highest quality females is important in securing a progressive flock. She also expresses that any ewe that fails to raise a lamb (i.e. failure to conceive or does not raise the lamb) should be culled from the flock regardless of her status. To listen to Susan’s seminar, please follow the link provided below.

Replacement Ewe Selection and Culling Underperforming Ewes

Ram Management

Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator, Marion County

(Image source: Shearwell Data – marking harness)

To achieve maximal fertility, rams should be physically examined for reproductive fitness to detect abnormalities that may affect breeding performance.  A breeding soundness examination can be completed before breeding season.  The scrotum and its contents as well as the penis and prepuce must be carefully examined.  The size and symmetry of both testes and epididymides should be assessed, and both testes should be firmly palpated for consistency and resilience. Semen can be collected and evaluated to check potential sires, particularly in ram lambs.  All screening procedures should be done Continue reading

CIDRs Now Officially Approved for Sheep

FDA Announces the Approval of a New Product for the Management of Reproduction in Sheep
November 16, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today is announcing the approval of EAZI-Breed CIDR Sheep Insert (progesterone solid matrix) for induction of estrus in ewes (sheep) during seasonal anestrus. This progesterone Continue reading

Breeding Season Preparation

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

Reproductive performance is an important factor in determining profitability in the sheep flock. Most breeds of sheep have seasonal breeding patterns and the majority of flocks in Ohio are spring lambing. In this scenario, the peak fertility of the ewe is from late September through November. The breeding season will extend Continue reading

Interested in Finding Out How Your Lambs are Performing? Have Them Scanned!

Bill and Susan Shultz, Logan County Sheep Producers

Bill and Susan Shultz will be scanning their 2009 lamb crop on Friday, June 20, 2009 at their farm in DeGraff, Ohio. They have contracted with Bonnie Bradford, a skilled technician, to do the scanning of loin eye and back fat as she has done the past three years for the Shultz’s. Continue reading