By Matt Reese
The rising level of interest in sheep production was readily apparent at the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association Ohio Sheep Day as a crowd of more than 175 people gathered at Buckeye Acres Farm west of Van Wert today.
The drought did little to discourage the enthusiasm, but was an important topic of discussion at the event. Knox County Extension educator Troy Cooper and retired NRCS specialist Bob Hendershot led a pasture tour to discuss a variety of pasture management options.
“With the drought, if we can get some rain in the next two or three weeks, you can get a no-till drill an inter-seed some winter annuals such as turnips or rye, which would provide some quick feed for this fall grazing as our pastures try to regain health and strength,” Cooper said. “For a longer-term solution, you can come in with some perennials this fall and re-seed some grass. Also keep your animals watered during this hot time of year and keeping your pastures flexible. Apply a fall application of fertilizer in mid or late August so that those plants that have been so stressed will be healthy and come back strong next spring.”
Another important topic at the event was parasite management.
“When managing for parasites, manage your younger animals first. Those are the animals that are making you money,” Cooper said. “When the lambs are just being weaned and they are growing the fastest, put your resources toward managing parasites in those young animals. The older animals are more resistant but you need to monitor them too. You can do fecal egg counts and you can do the FAMACHA and monitor the eyelids. If you have animals that are chronic carriers of parasites, now is a good time to get rid of them.”
Ohio State University herdsman Gregg Fogle demonstrated hoof trimming, castration and tail docking techniques to maximize herd health. Paul Kuber, with the OSU Department of Animal Sciences, gave a presentation on considerations for selecting sheep.
“Our selection is largely limited to visual for sheep because we don’t have as many data points for EPDs as we do in other species. It makes our selection process kind of archaic. You need thousands of numbers to get accuracy and we don’t have that,” Kuber said.
Head size, teeth, structure, width and udder and testicular qualities all should be considered when selecting sheep that are productive easy keepers.
Audio from Sheep Day:
Wayne County Extension Educator Rory Lewandowski talked about how to get started with a small ruminant operation.
Gregg Fogle talked with some novice sheep producers about what they need to think about as they enter the industry.
Dry grazing was a main topic of Sheep Day. Knox County Extension’s Troy Cooper gave his advice.