Evaluating Online Sheep Experts

Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK) Communications Committee
(Previously published online with EAPK: August 2, 2022)

With decreasing numbers of sheep extension agents, sheep research professors and small ruminant DVMs, our options for finding knowledgeable experts are becoming more limited. At the same time, the number of sheep “experts” on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media is growing exponentially. Today, sheep producers are able to obtain “expert” advice from across the country or around the world in a matter of seconds. While advances in technology have shaped the way we communicate information, it has also led to a plethora of misinformation that is often presented as fact, either intentionally or unintentionally. So, how do we navigate through this quagmire of information to determine whether the advice we receive is based on truth and facts or hearsay and half-truths? How can we determine if the “expert” really has the knowledge, skills, and experience to provide us with unbiased, accurate answers to our questions?

It’s human nature to want simple, definitive, one-size-fits-all answers. More and more we find ourselves surfing the internet looking for a quick answer to very complicated questions. Questions related to livestock production are Continue reading

Winter Grazing: Annual Forages Improve Lamb Growth and Health Parameters

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

Fall is for harvest. Whether directly involved in production agriculture or a consumer of its products, most associate this time of year with combines harvesting soybeans and corn in the field or farm stands filled with pumpkins and apple cider. However, for livestock producers and especially those raising ruminants, harvest looks a bit different. This time period is the final push for grazing corn fodder/stubble, stockpiled forages, or annuals planted in the late summer before environmental conditions force producers off of pasture and into the barn or drylot to feed grain and hay. For those that planned ahead, well done! Each of these options provide high quality feedstuffs that are self harvested by the animal, resulting in a cheaper feed source. For those that weren’t able to sacrifice the land or weren’t prepared for planting, no worries, there is always next year.

Some of you may be thinking, what forages would provide enough nutritional quality to get me through the year? For those that were able

Continue reading

Rangeland Sheep Research

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

On the border of Southwestern Montana and Eastern Idaho lay the rangelands that comprise the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. My interest in sheep production and my nephew’s enjoyment of road trips, led us on the three-hour trek from Bozeman, Montana to Dubois, Idaho last week to set foot on the influential sites where many American sheep research and rangeland management discoveries originated. After catching up over lunch at an old-fashioned soda fountain in Ennis, Montana, we crossed the Idaho border, and continued on through beautiful stretches of native rangelands peppered with cattle grazing as we followed winding gravel roads to Dubois.

The Sheep Experiment Station Headquarters is located about six miles north of Dubois, although the grazing lands under station management total over 48,000 acres in two states, Idaho and Montana. Station Research Leader- Dr. Joshua Bret Taylor met us upon arrival at headquarters and gave us a whirlwind tour of the main facilities located on the 28,000-acre site surrounding the station office. Some of the earliest research on Continue reading

What Benefits are Gained by Processing Grain Fed to Sheep?

Pulling from our archives, we thought that it would be appropriate to re-share this article as it is a timely piece that was shared in one of Dr. Francis Fluharty’s presentations at the 2020 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium. We hope that you enjoy!

How does corn processing and fiber source affect feedlot lamb performance, diet digestibility, nitrogen metabolism?

Behaviorally, sheep and cattle are very different, especially in the way they eat. Sheep are more selective in their eating pattern and spend more time physically chewing and breaking down their feed than cattle do.

Regardless of the animal we are feeding, it is common practice in the livestock feed industry to process the grains fed to our animals. An issue with feeding processed grain is that due to an increase in surface area, the starches in grain become more readily available for the animal to digest. As a result, an increase in digestion may lead to metabolic issues such as acidosis in our ruminant species.

Therefore, a question of interest that arises is Continue reading

Lamb Industry Requires Further Change, says American Lamb Summit

American Lamb Board
(Previously published in the ASI Weekly Newsletter – September 6, 2019)

Outcomes from the inaugural American Lamb Summit were clear: all segments of the industry need to further improve lamb quality to keep and attract new customers and become more efficient to recapture market share from imported lamb. Yet, it was just as clear that production technologies and product research put industry success within grasp.

“I have never been so enthusiastic about our industry’s opportunities, but we just can’t allow ourselves to be complacent or accept status quo,” said Dale Thorne, American Lamb Board chairman, a sheep producer and feeder from Michigan. Thorne stressed, “the end-game is profitability for all aspects of our industry.” Continue reading

Can a Fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, Improve the Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Finished Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

In a continually changing society, today’s consumer is much different in the way they make purchasing decisions when compared to their parents, especially when it comes to the meat case. Go ahead, list some examples of the marketing strategies you have seen at your local and chain retail grocery stores. Labels such as organic, pasture raised, and no hormones added are just a few. As an example, I’m sure that many of you are familiar with Certified Angus Beef, but have you heard of their new line – Certified Angus Beef Brand Natural? Natural. A simple word that appeals and resonates with some many people. These beef products follow the same 10 specs that all beef must achieve in order to be marketed as Certified Angus Beef in addition to no antibiotics or added hormones. I understand the concept behind the label, consumers are looking for a wholesome, natural product that is raised in a manner in which we have reduced the use of antibiotics, thus decreasing the potential for the development of antibiotic resistance.

In the same breath, according to a 2017 USDA survey, approximately 12% of American households remain food insecure. This figure increases Continue reading

Supplementation of Pasture-Raised Lambs Increases Animal Performance and Health

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

To capitalize on the niche market of grass-fed lamb products, have you ever considered placing a group of feeder lambs on pasture? The utilization of pastureland and the financial return from grass-fed products makes this type of production system profitable. However, grass-fed lamb production does not come without challenges. According to the USDA, in order for a product to be labeled as grass-fed, the animal must be fed solely forages, with the exclusion of its mother’s milk prior to weaning. From a production standpoint, this can be a difficult as research has shown that lambs finished on pasture take a longer period of time when compared to their counterparts fed grain. Lambs on pasture also face the challenge of parasitic infection. In an effort to decrease the effects of parasites and increase lamb body weight gain on pasture, producers may choose to supplement lambs while on pasture. However, supplementation of grain or grain by-products is not permitted by Continue reading

Feeding Long-fed Lambs: The Effect of Energy Source and Level, and Sex on Growth, Performance, and Carcass Characteristics of Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

If you recall from last week, Jaborek et al. (2017) investigated how feed source and amount of feed offered per feeding affected lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics. In that experiment, lambs were fed to live weights of 130 – 140 lbs. and were fed for approximately for 100 days. This system is representative of the Eastern US sheep production. However, this system does not apply to all producers. For those producers that decide to retain lambs for an extended period of time beyond this typical market size and condition, lets try to understand how the number of days on feed affects lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics summarizing a paper by Jaborek et al. (2018) that fed lambs for an additional length of time (218 days on feed total). Continue reading

Feeding Lambs: The Effect of Energy Source and Level, and Sex on Growth, Performance, and Carcass Characteristics of Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As the month of May comes to an end, there are two thoughts that come to mind. One, early born lambs raised indoors on grain are approaching market appropriate condition (live body weight and fat cover). Two, according to the Ethnic Holiday Calendar provided by the Maryland Small Ruminant program, Eid ul-Fitr (the Festival of Fasting Breaking for the Muslim faith) begins in two weeks. With this being said, shepherds with available lambs may consider selling their lambs in order to capitalize on the increased market value of lamb as a major ethnic holiday approaches just prior to the summer slump. However, marketing lambs towards this type of niche market can be challenging as some holiday dates continuously change from year to year. Although it is too late for this year to change your diets, feeding program, and management practices, it is important to consider what diet your lambs are being fed in order to achieve these marketing goals for the future. Therefore, in order to understand how sex, feed source, and amount of feed offered per feeding affects lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics, this week Jaborek et al. (2017) provides us with the data to do just that. Continue reading