Friday, May 31, 2013

Manage Pastures for Continued Growth

One of the easiest ways to manage pastures for continued growth is to clip seed heads after the sheep have been moved on to the next field. One a seed head emerges, the plant focuses nutrients/energy toward producing seeds. This means that the nutritional quality of the plant will decrease as that plant matures. Plants such as orchardgrass lose quality very rapidly once the seed head emerges, while others such as bromegrass lose quality more slowly. Clipping the seed heads will keep the plants growing in a vegetative state and will mean higher quality forages for the sheep to graze. For more information on grazing management, refer to the Penn State Agronomy Guide at

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pasture Fertility

Pasture fertilty should be maintained through the use of soil tests. The first fertilizer should be added after the first grazing as this can help to prevent problems from grass tetany. Lime is very important to maintain correct soil pH. Soils that are too acidic (pH is under 6.0) will tie up nutrients and thus nutrients will not be available for plant growth. One way to save on the cost of nitrogen for fertilizing pastures is to include a legume in the mix. If about 30% of the pasture mix is a legume, this should produce enough nitrogen to feed the grasses. For more information on soil fertility, refer to the Penn State Agronomy Guide soil management section at

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rotate Pastures to Maintain Optimum Plant Height

During the spring, pastures are growing rapidly and sheep have plenty to eat. However, you still want to manage those pastures so that the sheep have plenty to eat during the hot and dry months of summer. Pastures should be rotated out of when the forage has been grazed down to 3 inches in height. This keeps the plants from becoming stressed by overgrazing and also helps prevent internal parasites in the sheep. A good goal is to provide enough area to feed the sheep for four days or less. Use temporary fencing to better manage pasture size.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Be Prepared to Prevent Grass Tetany This Spring

What a beautiful site to see all the sheep turned out on the lush spring pastures! At this time of the year, the grass is growing rapidly, but we need to be aware that the forages may be low in magnesium. This can cause a disease called grass tetany or grass staggers. The disease is most prevalent in the spring, but can occur in the fall also. It is also more prevalent on pastures with high potassium levels in the soil. To avoid this problem, there are several options. One is to add magnesium oxide and lime to the pastures to increase the magnesium in the plants. Another option is to add magnesium oxide to the mineral mix or to a concentrat (grain) mix if you are feeding grain.Treatment for the disease can be difficult and requires consultation with your local veterinarian. For more information about grass tetany, visit

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wait for Adequate Pasture Growth

Spring is finally arriving here in PA, and all of us are anxious to turn our sheep out to pasture. However, it is important to wait until the grass is at least 5 inches tall before turning the sheep out. Pasturing too early will cause decreases in pasture production throughout the entire grazing season. Forages stored energy reserves in their roots last fall so that they have the energy to produce leaves in the spring to start the photosynthesis process. If plants are grazed off too soon, these root reserves will be used up and this will cause plants to slow their growth. Give plants enough time to not only produce the new leaves for this growing season, but to allow for enough growth that after grazing the plant has enough energy to rapidly re-grow. A bit of patience now will pay off over the course of the grazing season!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cold Weather Care of Newborn Lambs

The temperatures for the next couple days are going to be very cold, so special attention should be given to any ewes who are lambing at this time. Check sheep closely several times a day for any signs that lambing is impending. Once lambs are born, be sure to dry off with a towel, along with the ewe's licking. Pay special attention to the ears as they can get frosted. Make sure the lamb receives around three to four ounces of colostrum shortly after birth. This will give the lamb some extra energy to keep warm while it works at nursing from the ewe. Smaller or weak lambs may also need a heat source to keep them warm while they dry off. Consider using a barrel with a heat lamp mounted inside. Tie the barrel so that it can't be knocked over. Always use caution with heat lamps to prevent fires!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Weather Moving In

Last night was quite a wicked one for the weather! The wind was blowing sleet and rain into many barns across the area. For sheep who are housed inside, it is important to keep pens well bedded. This not only keeps sheep comfortable, but can help to prevent mastitis through a cleaner environment. For sheep housed outside, they should have access to a windbreak or an area with trees to help block the wind. Sheep that have been shorn recently should have access to shelter.