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Sheep Management Tips – Summer 2007

June 20th, 2008 · No Comments

Roger A. High, State Sheep Extension Associate,

(Originally published in Sheep Team Newsletter June 2007)

General Management – Keys to Summer Sheep Management

1)      The average sheep will consume 2 to 4 gallons of fresh, clean water per day, depending on temperature, humidity, and protection from the sun.
2)      Shade can be provided in the form of shelters, barns, trees, and the fleece of the sheep can provide adequate protection from the sun to protect the sheep if shelter is unavailable.  It is not recommended to have completely shorn sheep without shade as they will sunburn and have no protection from the sun.
3)      Maintain an adequate diet of forages and concentrates as necessary to maintain the ewes Body Condition Score (BCS), this BCS will need to change based upon the climate and the production state of the ewe.
4)      Provide adequate amounts of Sheep Free Choice Mineral with Selenium to prevent mineral deficiencies.
5)      Be cautious of poisonous plant, as many plants are more poisonous during drought conditions.
a.       Grazing Sudangrass or Sorghum Sudangrass crosses can lead to nitrate or prussic acid poisoning
b.       Do not force sheep to eat weeks as the only sources of nutrition.  Examples include Curly Dock, Lambsquarter, and Burdock


Urinary Calculi
Urinary Calculi, also known as kidney stones or bladder stones is a common problem with older rams and young lambs at this time of the year.  The blockage generally occurs in the urethra and the lamb is unable to pass these calculi through the urethra.  Urinary Calculi is most common in castrated males.  Prevention is usually accomplished by feeding 0.5% ammonium chloride or ammonium sulfate in the complete diet.  Avoid feeding high quality legumes.  It is also helpful to have a Ca:P ratio of 2:1 in the lambs diet.   In many cases, if adequate salt and mineral mix with ammonium chloride is provided to the rams or wethers with adequate sources of fresh, clean water, the problem can be entirely avoided.  Treatment is difficult and costly. Urinary calculi can be a problem with both sheep and goats.

Foot rot Prevention and Treatment
Watch of indications of foot rot in both ewes and lambs.  The best preventative measures for treatment is the keep sheep and lambs out of muddy areas where the foot rot bacteria (Bacteroides nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum) are most likely to reside.  Both bacteria must be present for foot rot to occur, foot rot will not occur if only one of these bacteria is present in the environment.   It is also recommended that a 10% zinc sulfate mixture (8 lbs. zinc sulfate/10 gallons water), 1-2 inches deep be set up between pasture and water supply.  Also, keep feet well trimmed.  There are also vaccination treatments available as another aid in the prevention and treatment for foot rot that seem to work very well.  The most popular vaccination on the market is called New Zealand Footvax, and it can be obtained at many sheep supply companies.

Monthly Management Tips for Grazing Flocks
Over the next several quarterly OSU Sheep Team Newsletters, I will be providing a series called Monthly Management Tips for Grazing Flocks, this is information that was put together by a number of sheep grazing managers over the past several years.  Of course, there are going to be some things that you do differently, but these are some basics that might help you manage your grazing flock better.

May and June (lacation) Nutrition: Rotate pastures to allow for 10-21 days rest between grazing, weather dependent.  Graze hard early, to keep forages from getting to mature, especially the grass species.  Back fence and make hay or balage early off of un-grazed pastures.  Enter pastures at heights of six to eight inches and remove to two to four inches.  Use the flock much like a lawn mower to prevent grasses from entering their reproductive (seed) phase.  Pay attention to rest time between grazing.  Allow no more than three days grazing in a paddock followed by the appropriate amount of rest.  Three days in a paddock is ideal and practical for most producers.  Exceeding three days of grazing can damage pasture growth.

July and August (lactation) Nutrition: Depending on rainfall and temperature, grazing rotation will extend from 20 days to as much as 40 days rest between grazing.  Weaning and Deworming: Wean lambs at 90 days, de-worm lambs and put the lambs on a clean pasture (re-growth hay field) or allow to remain on ewes if separation is a management problem.  Health: Watch for diarrhea and smeary buts as evidence of internal parasites or coccidia for those lambs left on pasture.  Marketing: Check the market, you may want to sort a truck or trailer load of heavy lambs off of the pasture and feed out to create some cash flow.  Feed lambs on good quality alfalfa and shelled corn or a commercial corn/35% protein supplement mixture.  Health of lambs in feedlot:  Booster with overeating vaccines and de-worm these lambs (Vabazen or Panacur for tapeworms).  Nutrition of lambs in feedlot: Adjust slowly to grain (two to three weeks).  To prevent urinary calculi, don’t exceed a 50/50 corn/hay mix of feed and feed a 2:1 Ca:P ratio balanced commercial 35% lamb supplement pellet or shelled corn.  Usually lambs will finish nicely on about 2 lbs. shelled corn and 2 lbs. of good alfalfa hay or the commercial pellet or shelled corn mix.  The lambs should gain 0.5 to 0.7 pounds per day.  Thus 80 lbs. lambs should weight about 120 pounds in 60-80 days.

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