Carcass Results from Breed Champion Lambs at 2019 Ohio State Fair

This video shows the carcass data from the eighteen breed champion and reserve champion lambs exhibited in the junior market lamb show at the 2019 Ohio State Fair.

Thank you to the Ohio State University Meat Lab and Dr Steve Moeller for harvesting and ranking the carcasses.  Data from the Open and the Junior Division Champions & Reserve  Champions is listed for information only.

Barnyard Blindness

Barnyard Blindness

By Tim Barnes

The next time you are on the internet, google “Barnyard Blindness”.   What did you find?  My experience has been there is no good answer.   It offers you sites for blind horses and barnyard festivals!

In an old Drovers Journal article, the author states:  “The definition of BARNYARD BLINDNESS is when everybody thinks that their critter is better than anyone else’s, but the real meaning is when a breeder cannot see the animals shortcomings and therefore, continues to produce subpar offspring.”

Daily, as I feed and water (garden hose – no automatic fountain), I observe the groups of our lambs, ewes, and rams.  Making sure all are up and about but also evaluating (in my mind) just how good they are in the big picture of the Shropshire & Tunis worlds.  I personally think I get a much more optimistic opinion in the morning than in the evening.  I do not know why, but I would guess the freshness of the new day is verified by the calm of the animals in the barn.  By evenings all those little problems start to add up, a hanger is broken on a feeder, ewe 1725 is limping, lamb 1840 is coughing, a light bulb is burnt out, etc.   So, I continually try to balance the good with the bad and never make big sheep decisions in the evening.

So how good are my sheep???  How can I compare them to the other flocks?  Let me say right here and now!  I have used EPDs and benchmarks for years in the swine industry and firmly believe they are an invaluable resource for herd improvement.  But the show sheep industry currently places little/no value in this type of data, so each of us must develop our own system to evaluate our sheep.

You can establish a baseline for your flock by visiting other breeders.  I am not sure why my mind works this way, but when I visit other flocks, I am always impressed with their sheep for the first few minutes.  My mind thinks their sheep are bigger, thicker, sounder, and longer.   But then reality and experience set in and my mind starts to calibrate the surroundings.  Soon after, I start to focus on the priority traits I am looking for, and then establish a balance between my sheep and the host flock.  Years ago in Oklahoma a breeder told me you can have your pick of my ewe lambs.  REALLY!  My problem was there were 150 head in a 100 acre pasture!  Needless to say that visit was a real eye opener!  Be flexible and ready for many new experiences on a farm visit!

FAT SELLS, FAT SELLS, FAT SELLS!!!  Learn quickly the difference between fat and muscle.  There are meat science videos, live sheep judging videos, feed management videos, and old experienced shepherds who can help you evaluate muscle and fat.  The vast majority of sheep judges today are profile judges (they place the animals from the side view), thus fat makes a narrow animal wide, a shallow animal deep and a small animal massive.

We are all BARNYARD BLIND to a certain degree.  We raise the type of sheep we like to look at.   The great breeders know a good one whether they are skinny or fat.  Embrace the challenge of breeding better sheep.  Learn, live, look and enjoy each moment in the barn.   Remember ”BARNYARD BLINDNESS” is a curable problem!

So You Want To Show A Market Lamb But Don’t Know Where To Begin?

So You Want To Show A Market Lamb But Don’t Know Where To Begin?

From: Tim Barnes  Ohio State University Extension Educator

The experts say selection and show preparation are a science that will aid in predicting the final product of your sheep.  A well-planned feed and exercise program is the foundation for any winning project.

Understanding the project

In order to establish a feed and exercise program, you have to understand the genetics of your lamb, and how to tailor your program.

The type of lamb selected will have a major influence on the results.  Select a lamb with structural correctness, muscle, eye appeal, and growth potential.

The best age to select the project lamb is two to three months of age.  If the lamb has muscle shape or structural flaws at that age they will have the same problems later in the show season.

Evaluate lambs on the farm in their natural environment and look at the lamb several times before purchasing to evaluate growth potential.  Also, check to see if the lamb has been vaccinated for enterotoxemia (overeating disease).

Crafting Consumption

After purchasing the lamb it is time to develop a feeding program. A goal would be to have the lamb weigh 100 pounds 60 days before the first show.  This weight is a good place to start managing weight and finish for the show.

Take the show schedule into account and feed accordingly.  Your feeding program is the simplest way to manage the lamb’s weight gain.

Remember each lamb is an individual and they do not all grow the same or have the same body composition.  With this in mind it is important to feed each lamb individually when they reach 100 pounds.

There are many feed choices but select a base ration in the 14-18 percent protein ration in pellet form.  The higher the protein content, the easier it is for the sheep to put on fat.  The 16 percent ration works well in terms of growth and muscle building.  As the lamb gains weight the protein should be decreased because they need less as the reach their endpoint.

The 60 days before the show the lamb should be fed a protein ration to develop muscle shape and expression and the proper amount of fat.

One month before the first show the natural endpoint should be taken into account.  Pounds of feed help determine where the lamb should be.  Example if you are feeding 6 pounds a day of an 18 percent protein feed the lamb should gain 1 pound per day and if you cut that back to 3 pounds a day the lamb will gain closer to a half pound per day, so in 30 days the lamb will gain close to 15 pounds.

For inexperienced showman there is no simple conversion in adjusting back fat, it depends on the size of the lamb, the projected stress level (based on environment and movement), the lamb response to feeds and exercise.   This is the one area where experience will improve the final results.

Water intake is important and should always remain the same in a feeding program.  Before stress period adding electrolytes will help animal hydration issues.

Feeding a nutritionally sound, balanced diet and keeping the lamb blanketed will promote good skin and fleece condition.

Exercise is wise

Exercising lambs is a necessity.  The three best options are lamb walker, tracking and/or treadmilling.  Just like feeding, a schedule is also critical for exercise.  When the lamb reaches 100 pounds the exercise should begin.

Exercise should start 60-90 days before the show.  Walker are used during most exercise periods to promote head placement and proper speed of movement while improving endurance.  Treadmilling and tracking are used for short time periods ( 3 minutes).  Walking for one minute, and then let the sheep stand for one minute.  Eventually, work up to walking for an hour.  At big shows, classes can take up to an hour to judge.  So preparing your sheep to stand and walk for that long is important in showmanship.

There are several regimes to exercise lambs.  One example is to exercise every other day throughout the show season, using a walker and then on a track or treadmill during that session.  More experienced fitters will alternate tracking and treadmilling from one session to the next.

Consistency is the key

Consistency is the key for a successful feed and exercise program.  Set a schedule and stick to it!  Drastic changes in the management program will do more harm than good.

Do your homework

Remember every lamb is different and understanding how to tailor your exercise and feeding program to each lamb takes time and experience.

Maintain a relationship with the breeder you purchased you lamb from and inform them of the lamb’s progress they can give you feeding tips.

By putting in the needed work in the time leading up to the show, you can have a successful lamb project.  It’s all  a matter of understanding  the SCIENCE.

Subject matter taken from: The Science of Show Preparation by Jill Johnson



Judges Perspective

Ever wonder what is going on in a judge’s mind while they are evaluating a class? Watch this video to pick the brain of a judge and see what they see during a couple classes.

Show Lamb Nutrition


As fair time approaches this article by Dr. Kevin Burgoon

is a great reminder about show lamb nutrition.

Feeding lambs for show involves some basic principles of nutrition. Whether lambs are fed commercially for market, or diets intended to produce specific physical responses, we must remember that lambs are ruminants.

It is of upmost importance that we maintain rumen health and function. Feeding grain based diets without providing sufficient roughage in the lamb’s diet can lead to unintended consequences. Simplified, the rumen is where it’s at when we talk show lamb nutrition. If rumen function is impaired, the lamb is usually on a roller coaster ride of feed intake. Growth and subsequent physical performance suffers, and the lamb cannot express it’s full genetic potential.

At minimum, each lamb should receive a double handful, or about 1/4 lbs (4 ounces) of a good quality alfalfa hay per day. Although progressive judges are selecting lambs with more base width, rib shape, and deeper fore rib, we still want lambs that are relatively tubular in their design.

Poor quality forage passes slowly through the digestive tract of the lamb. So, feeding a low or moderate quality roughage source tends to put some middle or a “belly” on lambs. The higher quality alfalfa passes through much faster, maintaining the “tubular” appearance of the lamb, yet meeting the lamb’s fiber requirement.

It is also important to feed a quality alfalfa with a minimum 1 1/2 to 2 inches of fiber length. Feeding alfalfa pellets or ground hay does not have the effective NDF needed for rumen health. You may also notice wool chewing or wool pulling in lambs. The leading cause of this activity in sheep is inadequate fiber length, resulting in insufficient effective NDF. It is important here to note that feeding a roughage source with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of fiber length usually prevents wool biting, chewing or pulling. However, once a lamb begins to pull wool, it usually will not stop. It quickly becomes a habit, and you will need to keep the lambs covered or separated to stop this activity.

Water is also extremely important. Water is directly related to feed intake. The water source needs to be clean, fresh, abundant, and not too hot or cold at all times to ensure proper feed intake and growth performance. Keeping the lamb hydrated at all times will also help prevent the occurrence of urinary calculi. A good show lamb feed will contain ammonium chloride for the prevention of this condition. However, if the lamb is not drinking sufficient water, or you do not hydrate the lamb properly at or after a show, the lamb is at elevated risk of developing urinary calculi.

Show lamb feeds come in various forms and protein content. You might think about feeding a showlamb feed with about 18% crude protein, at least for the initial 45 to 60 days of the feeding period. Show lamb feeds are usually high in crude protein because we are limit feeding very muscular lambs that have much higher daily nutrient requirements.

However, energy is still very important. Energy provides the fuel for growth and ever metabolic process. A low energy feed will usually result in poor growth performance and an unsatisfactory outcome to your showlamb project.

Some feeders like to transition to a lower crude protein feed at some point in the feeding period. This works well as long as the lower protein feed also has an increase in energy content. Feeding high energy feeds to increase the energy density of the diet to increase cover or body condition is also appropriate. There is no one precise feeding regimen for every lamb. Each one is a little different, and the feeding strategy will depend upon what is needed to accomplish in the lamb.

High protein supplements are sometimes useful in either trimming body condition, or increasing the muscling of the lamb. The amount to be fed will depend upon the product, and again what is needed to be accomplished in the lamb.

The daily feed amount will again depend upon the lamb, it’s size, age, and the nutrient content of the feed.
It is always a good idea to feed a medicated feed to lambs. Coccidiosis is usually the lamb’s biggest immune challenge.
It is also important to note what a good showlamb feed will and will not do. A good showlamb feed will:

  • Maintain a consistent feed intake (as long as water and roughage are not an issue)
  • Result in adequate growth and development of the lamb
  • Result in a good physical appearance of the lamb (skin, hair, and wool)
  • Result in proper conditioning of the lamb
  • Result in the lamb expressing it’s genetic potential
  • Contain ammonium chloride in order to prevent urinary calculi

A good show lamb feed will NOT:

  • Create more bone
  • Make the lamb longer
  • Increase base width
  • Increase the length of the lamb’s neck
  • Increase length of loin
  • Increase length of hind saddle
  • Strength a weak topped lamb (broken behind the shoulders)

In other words, you will need to select a quality lamb with the genetic potential to respond to good nutrition; genetic potential that results in a fairly heavily muscled lamb. After all, we are feeding and showing market lambs. A market animal needs to exhibit muscle. A poorly muscled lamb will normally find its way to the bottom of most classes. If you select a lamb that has inferior muscling, the greatest feed money can buy is not going to result in producing adequate muscle.

Build a relationship with the breeder of your choice. They will be more than happy to assist you. You can be assured they want their lambs to perform their best for you.

It is a good idea to feed more than one lamb. Sheep are herding or flocking type creatures, and two lambs do much better than one by itself. Lambs eat and perform much better when a companion or pen mate is present. A consistent exercise program is essential to the success of your showlamb project and to obtain the maximum response between the nutrition – genetic potential interaction. The extent and duration of the exercise will depend what is required to accomplish in the lamb. However, exercising the lamb 3 to 4 times per week should be sufficient.

Good luck with your showlamb project. Remember that if you need help do not be afraid to ask. Breeders and more experienced exhibitors are an excellent source of information and knowledge.