9/23/2021 Sheep Management in the Fall #438

As sheep producers move into fall and winter, they should be thinking about how their facilities and feed purchases will affect their flock. Travis Hoffman, NDSU and University of Minnesota Extension sheep specialist discusses these topics and more in this week’s Sound Ag Advice.
Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist

Speaker 2: Travis Hoffman, NDSU and University of Minnesota Extension Sheep Specialist

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Travis Hoffman in NDSU, and University of Minnesota Extension sheep specialist. Thanks for being here, Travis.

Travis: Thank you, Kelli.

Kelli: Today we're going to talk about some general things that people with sheep should be thinking about as we go into the fall and winter months. The first thing we're going to talk about is facilities. Travis, what are some things that people should be thinking about when it comes to facilities?

Travis: So first off, as we have diversified farming and ranching operations, it's been a little bit tough here, and a little frustrating to get in and get some of that harvest accomplished. But I think that there's some things that we can look forward to, if we have sheep on our operations from a facility standpoint, if we look at what is our plan as we move closer to lambing? Do we have enough lambing panels? Will those be four foot by four foot, maybe five foot by five foot? And to have an idea of what you're going to do with potential bottle lambs or bum lambs? Are you making a pen for those? Are you interested in merchandising them? What about lamb milk replacer? How would you be able to approach that and so I think that now as we move into the fall, we're not going to want to be setting up those pens in February or, or even earlier or later. But we can get some of that work done as we prepare for lambing and look at where we're at on shelter, heat for those animals and ventilation for the barns.

Kelli: You mentioned lambing. What type of condition should ewes be in as they get bred and then move through their gestation period?

Travis: Absolutely, we're at an important time that we can evaluate where those ewes are based on their condition. And from a body condition scoring standpoint, here in the fall, we've already potentially had the rams out, we can maybe increase that plane of nutrition prior to breeding. But now we can see if there's certain females or certain ones that maybe need a little bit more supplementation. And so now is our chance here as we move into the fall to get those girls caught up a little bit. Because we can't do that as we near lambing, because so much of the energy is then going to the fetus development and to the lambs themselves. And so now's our opportunity, even if it's at the beginning part of that gestation period, to help work with those use. And you can also be able to evaluate them, are they too fat, too narrow and too skinny at this point? And maybe if you're really feeling the excitement, you can trim the hooves as well.

Kelli: A lot of people have questions about whether they should body condition score before or after shearing? What's the answer on that?

Travis: Well, I think that from a holistic standpoint on a year, you should be able to evaluate where they're at. The difference is, a lot of times we're going to shear those ewes about 30 days, or 45 days before they're going to lamb. And at that point, like I said earlier, it's just a little too late to get the groceries to them, then.

Kelli: Now let's talk about feeding those ewes, what are some of the things we should think about when making feed purchases for the fallen winter?

Travis: I think that's a great topic to talk about here in the fall, because some people raise the hay that they have. And if they do, I would recommend getting that hay, tested to see where we're at on relative feed value on percent proteins. Or if you're purchasing it, it may already have that information or data along with it and try to gather that information for a feed that we are going to use for those use, particularly there. As we get closer to parturition or lambing. We want to make sure that we have a high quality, potentially an alfalfa, or at least a high protein feed that we can be able to use for those sheep and for those ewes.

Kelli: I know you've had some questions about whether farmers can feed soybeans to sheep. What's your recommendation on that?

Travis: As we've seen in a dynamic market right now, people are interested in exploring options. And I totally think that we should be able to, again, question and identify different opportunities that we can get better. Soybeans can be used as a small replacement of the diet. In fact, I wouldn't use it more than 20% of your diet. But those can be used for those ewes, or even the lambs as they get past weaning. Not early, they can't eat the whole soybeans because at least as that animal is developing, it's still kind of a non-ruminant or that rumen system is still developing. So, it's not good for the young lambs to east the whole soybeans, but it can be used for 20% of the diet for your ewes.

Kelli: Our guest today has been Travis Hoffman NDSU and University of Minnesota Extension sheep specialist. We thank him for his time today. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.

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