Sharpen Your Shepherding Skills with Bred Ewe Lambs!


  • Ewe lambs need to be 70% of their mature body weight prior to breeding.
  • Ewe lambs have a shorter breeding season than older ewes. Ewe lambs born earlier in the year cycle earlier due to their larger body weight and maturity.
  • Select feed rations correctly! Pregnant ewe lambs are still growing and have higher nutritional requirements than older ewes. During early and mid-pregnancy ewe lambs, need 17-20% more quality feed than older ewes?
  • Make sure the ewe lambs are at their optimum body condition score 3-6 weeks before lambing.
  • Do not overfeed before lambing. Ewe lambs require a balanced diet for maintenance and pregnancy not growth. Over feeding will create large single lambs with possible lambing difficulties.
  • Avoid multiple births – do not over feed up to and during mating.
  • You should pregnancy check at eight weeks after breeding to identify ewes carrying multiple births and to identify open ewes.
  • Group separately ewes with multiple lambs.
  • General pregnancy results for young ewes: single 69%, twins 19%, & triplets .5%.
  • Lambing will greatly affect the body condition (one=thin five=Fat) and future performance plus growth rate of the ewe lamb.
  • Ewes lambing later and then weaning later may require additional body condition recovery time.
  • Continue to manage young ewes after weaning to ensure timely breeding results in the following breeding season.


Be cautious of your decision to breed ewe lambs if your flock has a history lambing difficulties with assisted births and cesarean sections.

Water and Animals

When the ambient outdoor temperature is below freezing during winter or scorching hot in summer, we must acknowledge and remember that water is necessary for livestock production. More importantly, it’s necessary for life. This may seem like common sense to you, and I hope it does, because it suggests that you recognize its importance. Without water we have no livestock production. Without water we have no life. It’s as simple and complex as that. After all, water is mandatory for the maintenance and regulation of body temperature (throw it back to BIO101 and think “homeostasis”). It’s an immensely important factor in growth, development, and lactation. And it’s imperative for digestive processes, reproduction, excretion, and metabolizing forages and feedstuffs, among many other biological processes.

Water is critical to so many different processes in the body that it’s even essential to eyesight. Let that sink in. It’s something we probably tend to not think about, but it’s true. I won’t delve into the multifaceted specifics of all of the biological processes that require water because they are many and I’d be writing a novel. However, we are responsible, nevertheless, for supplying water to our livestock that is sufficient and clean to set the stage for increased performance, which, in turn, results in increased production.

This leads us to the topic of water requirements, which are affected by a myriad of circumstances. The age, size, and species of animal, level of activity, dry matter/feed intake, ambient temperature, and water temperature are some of those factors. Gestation is another factor, one at the forefront and of great importance in a production setting. Although all water consumed by livestock doesn’t have to and won’t be provided in the form of drinking water, water still needs to be provided ad libitum, meaning “as desired.” Sure, water can be consumed by livestock via forages or feedstuffs that contain a lot of moisture (things like pasture, silage, etc.), but those sources of nutrition only satisfy a portion of animal water requirements. The rest of that requirement comes from intake by way of ad libitum access to water. In other words, animals voluntarily drinking water that they have free access to in order to satisfy their needs.

Here’s a general idea of just how much water some classes of livestock consume on a per day basis, but keep in mind that these values may vary:

  • Dry and bred cows: 6-15 gallons
  • Nursing cows: 11-18 gallons
  • Bulls: 7-19 gallons
  • Growing cattle: 4-15 gallons
  • Dairy cattle: 15-30 gallons
  • Sheep and goats: 2-3 gallons
  • Horses: 10-15 gallons

In addition to water requirements, it’s also imperative that we recognize the importance of water quality to livestock production. In simple terms, poor water quality (i.e. water containing debris, bacterial contamination, etc.) may lead to a reduction in water and feed consumption, which negatively affects animal health and culminates in a loss of production. It’s a domino effect.

Often times we’re able to detect poor water quality upon visual examination and/or sense of smell, but this is not always the case. Therefore, it’s a good practice for us as producers to have our water tested. For example, water that is murky in appearance and/or foul smelling could be a sign of contamination, but in order to pinpoint the potential contaminate(s), it needs to be investigated. Water in a farm pond that has a green film on top may be indicative of an algal bloom. Although not all algal blooms are toxic, it’s recommended that these water sources be avoided until sample analyses have been obtained.

Regarding livestock watering sources, we’ve historically used streams, ponds, and springs to provide water for our animals. While they may still be in use, well-pumped and gravity-fed systems are becoming more common. Ultimately, the type of system that works best for you will depend on your specific needs and situation. For those of us who must use streams, ponds, and springs, it’s ideal to provide animals points of access (versus access to the watering source in its entirety) for drinking purposes so that we not only minimize the potential for soil erosion and sedimentation, but also reduce the risk of contamination and threat to water quality. It’s a term we like to call “controlled direct access,” and it usually involves fencing and the construction of ramps to achieve limited access. While some major advantages of using these sources for providing water to livestock are reliability, low cost, and the fact that they aren’t dependent on power, they do come with their disadvantages — they require maintenance, may dry up during drought, and are still at risk of contamination due to accessibility by livestock. Well-pumped and gravity-fed watering systems are generally viewed as better alternatives to sources in which livestock have direct access because they employ complete exclusion of animals, thereby reducing the threat to water quality.

Overall, water that is clean and of good quality will lead to an increase in water and feed consumption, which positively affects animal health and results in an increase in livestock performance and production. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, so long as we’re keenly aware of water’s place in livestock production. And if you need another reminder, it’s always at the top of the list of importance.


Callie Burnett is a farm girl, animal scientist, and biologist whose heritage is deeply rooted in agriculture. She is an alumna of Clemson University with a Master of Science in Animal & Veterinary Sciences.  

Adding Distillers Grain and Soy Hulls to Sheep Diets

Adding Distillers Grain and Soy Hulls to Sheep Diets

August 14 2018

Jeff Held, SDSU Sheep Extension Specialists
(Previously published as an Extension Extra: South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service)

Feeding Soy Hulls and Dried Distillers Grain with Solubles to Sheep

Co-products from corn and soybean processing industries can be excellent sources of nutrients for livestock. With the growth of ethanol production from corn and increasing number of soybeans processed in the Upper Midwest, livestock producers have many nutrient-dense co-product feed resources readily available. In the Upper Midwest distillers dried grain with solubles (DDGS) derived from ethanol production and soybean hulls (SH) from soybean processing have created the greatest interest to sheep producers.

Interestingly these co-products are both high fiber-low starch in content, much like forages. Yet DDGS is classified as a protein feed and SH could be classified as an energy feedstuff.

As often found with co-product feed ingredients, these have unique nutrient profiles and physical characteristics that require attention when formulating diets. They often can serve multiple roles in diet formulation: energy, protein, or forage. Many producers are simply unfamiliar with the effect of DDGS or SH on diet palatability, level of performance, cost effectiveness, and health status.

For sheep producers the key attractions of these feeds are cost effectiveness, animal performance, and reduced labor.

The key physical characteristic that offers diet formulation flexibility is the high fiber and low starch content. Both DDGS and SH are energy-dense feeds that can safely replace a portion of traditional forage or grain in diets, since the high fiber-low starch physical characteristics have lower rumen acidosis potential compared to grain-based diets.

Cost per pound of nutrient will influence their inclusion into sheep diets. Economically, DDGS is currently best suited to serve as a protein feed since it competes most favorably with traditional protein feeds like soybean meal. Pelleted SH can be an economical source of forage or serve as an energy feedstuff substituting for corn or barley. For nutrient content, see Table 1.

Using soybean hulls in sheep diets
Using pelleted SH for mature breeding ewes as a forage source has increased dramatically across the Upper Midwest during the past 5 years, especially in drought stricken areas.

Recommendations for SH use in ewe diets have been based on research at the SDSU sheep research unit where non-pregnant mature ewes were fed slightly above maintenance requirement by offering 4 lb of pelleted soybean hulls and 1 lb of long-stemmed alfalfa hay daily. Ewes were fed this diet for 60 days with no ill health, and ewe body weight change was a positive 0.1 lb per day. (In beef and dairy cattle studies, recommendations are to limit soybean hulls to 40% of dry matter intake due to concern for bloat.)

Studies with growing lambs fed SH based diets have reported excellent growth performance and palatability. Soy hulls stimulate intake; studies demonstrate that intake increases linearly with higher levels of soy hulls.

Although SH is a high fiber feedstuff, the rate and extent of fermentation in the rumen is rapid, leading to increased rate of passage; it is these features that contribute to increased feed intake. Growing lambs fed a diet containing 70% SH had a reported dry matter intake equivalent to 4.5% of animal body weight. Compared to more traditional corn based diets, lamb dry matter intake of SH is often increased by 0.5 to 1.0% of animal body weight.

Using DDGS in sheep diets
Ewe lactation studies using DDGS compared to soybean meal as a protein supplement show no difference in ewe body condition score or suckling lamb gain. A lactation study using DDGS to replace 2/3 of the grain (corn), equating to 25% of the diet, improved triplet- reared lamb growth performance by 12%. There was no difference in single and twin reared lambs.

Studies using DDGS in lamb growing-finishing diets are scarce. This lack of DDGS research could be related to current general lamb feeding practices: Lamb rations are generally offered ad-lib in self-feeders with maximum expected gain. Pelleted lamb protein supplements containing protein, minerals, vitamins, and feed additives are commonly used to reduce feed ingredient sorting and refusal.

However, the high cost of commercially manufactured lamb protein supplements has created producer interest in inclusion of DDGS and other co-products in lamb diets. Since the level of crude protein in DDGS is approximately 40% lower than in soybean meal (30 vs. 48% CP), the cost per unit of crude protein will need to favor DDGS to substitute for soybean meal in mixed lamb diets.

Even when the economics favor DDGS the high inclusion rate adds considerably more phosphorus to the diet, creating greater diet formulation challenges.

Editors Note: Please note that the values found in Table 2 are reflective of ingredient pricing when the article was first published in 2006.


Alternative Sources of Livestock Bedding

Iowa State University, Northwest Research Farms and Allee Demonstration Farm ISRF05-29, 31
Absorbency of Alternative Livestock Bedding Sources
Reggie Voyles, undergraduate research intern
Mark Honeyman, professor
Department of Animal Science
As the demand for niche-marketed meats
increases, so does need for research in this area.
One niche market that is being examined is pork
raised in deep-bedded systems. There is also a
call for alternative bedding materials. Farmproduced
bedding sources such as cornstalks
and various types of straws are commonly used.
However, this study looked at other possible
materials. Products were tested to see if they
could be equal substitutes based on their
absorbency. A ground lumber product and a
ground lumber with drywall product with a ratio
of 8:1 lumber-to-drywall were tested. These
products were produced from demolished
buildings. They had different performance
qualities than wood shavings and were
compared to cornstalks, recycled paper, oat
straw, and triticale straw.
Materials and Methods
The trials were conducted at the Iowa State
University Ag Engineering and Agronomy
Farm, Boone, Iowa. Samples of cornstalks,
recycled paper, oat straw, triticale straw, ground
lumber, and a ground lumber/drywall mixture
were collected. The Taylor Recycling Facility of
Iowa, LLC, donated the two ground lumber
samples. The rest of the samples were collected
from various Iowa State University research
farms. Once the samples were collected, they
were tested for absorbency. The process used
was taken from an article found on the Ministry
of Agriculture and Food of Ontario, Canada’s
website. The steps were:
1. Place 1 lb of the bedding material in one leg
of pantyhose, weighing both the pantyhose
and bedding material.
2. Place the material in a five-gallon pail of
water and leave it completely immersed for
24 hours. Make sure that there is enough
water so that some free water is left after the
24 hours has ended. Covering the pails cuts
down on the chances of water evaporation.
3. Take the bag out of the water and hang it to
drain, but only until it has stopped dripping,
not so long that the sample has started to dry
4. Reweigh the material and calculate the
absorbency factor from the following
Absorbency factor = (weight after
soaking – original weight)/original
Five replications of this process for each of the
six bedding type were completed. Each sample
was soaked in a bucket for 24 hours and then
hung to drip for 75 minutes, the time that it took
for the sample to quit dripping. After it had
finished dripping, the sample was reweighed to
calculate its absorbency factor as a bedding
Results and Discussion
The absorbency means of the five replications
of the six bedding materials are shown in Table
1. The means shown in Table 1 were compared
using the Tukey’s test for mean separation
(P<0.002) with SAS. The data collected show
some differences in the absorbency of the
different bedding materials. There were three
pairs of bedding based on absorbency: a top,
middle, and bottom pair. The greater the
absorbency factor, the more water the material
held. Cornstalks and oat straw each held about
three times their weight of water. The samples
of shredded paper and triticale straw each held
about two times their weight of water, while the
ground lumber and ground lumber/drywall
Iowa State University, Northwest Research Farms and Allee Demonstration Farm ISRF05-29, 31
mixture held only just over their weight of
After knowing their absorbencies, these
different bedding materials can be placed in a
usage schedule. Cornstalks and oat straw have
the higher absorbency, so it is recommended
that corn producers use harvested stalks as
bedding. The shredded paper is an option for
those who are close to a recycling center with an
abundance of this product available. The lumber
products can be used if there is a shortage of
cornstalks or straw or to stretch the available
supply of bedding materials. They also might
make a good base for a bedding pack, because
of their durable structure when wet. The lumber
products absorb just like the others; it just takes
more bedding to absorb the same amount of
The authors gratefully acknowledge the
following people for all of their help and
encouragement throughout this project: Arlie
Penner, Mike Fiscus, Wes Rodgers, and Seth
Schroeder. The project was supported by the
Agronomy/Baker Endowment and the Leopold
Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
Table 1. Mean absorbencies of six bedding types.
Materials Mean absorbency factor
Cornstalks 2.70a
Shredded paper 2.08b
Triticale straw 1.97b
Oat straw 2.86a
Shredded lumber 1.15c
Shredded lumber plus
(lumber/drywall, 8:1)
Means with different superscripts differ (P<.002).