Signs and Symptoms: What are your sheep trying to tell you?

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We've all experienced a sick sheep, or at least one that doesn't look quite right, but how do we distinguish a serious illness from one that is mild, or simply normal behavior? While your veterinarian should always be your primary source of medical advice, it's still important that shepherds have the ability to accurately identify and describe any signs and symptoms your animal may be experiencing. When calling your vet, this information will…

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Shepherd to Shepherd: Producer Forum Blog #4

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For our fourth and final producer forum we asked our four shepherds to share some words of wisdom. As usual, their answers are as varied as their production systems and geographic location. What has your experience taught you over the years and what nuggets or advice would you share with others, especially new, Katahdin producers? Michelle Canfield (Canfield Farms, Western Washington) Farming is a lot of work! Pulling from my day job that…

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Sheep GEMS Update

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Sheep GEMS is roaring ahead, with the strong commitment by Katahdin breeders particularly welcomed. With the help of John Bare, Michelle Canfield, Tom Hodgman, and Jim Morgan—members of a Project Advisory Group—twenty-six Katahdin flocks have voiced their interest to participate in this project. A key element of Sheep GEMS is collecting performance records in NSIP-member flocks that reflect the productive efficiency, robustness, and climatic resilience of their sheep. These include udder health, lamb…

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Late Gestation Management Considerations

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Ewes are bred, the holidays are just around the corner, and for all of us with winter lambing flocks, lambing season is almost here. Over the last year, we have invested in high quality genetics to move our flocks forward and now it's important that we make sure our next generation of lambs gets off to the right start. This begins with good late gestation management. I have summarized nutritional requirements in Table…

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Alternative Feeds: Is Variety the Spice of Life?

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When it comes to sheep feed…it depends. With staggering increases in feed costs due to inflation, supply chain disruptions, impacts of international conflicts affecting energy, grain and fertilizer production along with regional weather events, now might be a good time to investigate alternative feeds. Alternative feeds are those that are not commonly used on a regular basis as part of the usual livestock feed ration and are often cheaper than typical feed, such…

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Small Farm Hay Considerations

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For a small producer, identifying a hay farmer that suits your needs each and every year can be an invaluable asset to your farm. Building and nurturing that relationship may mean you have access to hay during unforeseen events, such as drought or shortage. Creating that relationship gives you an understanding of what you are buying. It allows you to become actively involved in the production of your animal's diet for a good…

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How Does Selection for Parasite Resistance in Katahdin Sheep Affect Other Important Traits?

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Katahdin producers who use NSIP estimated breeding values (EBV) to make selection decisions on replacements for the home flock or for sale often select for more than one trait at a time. In fact, most breeders search for the perfect animal with balanced EBVs, or those that excel in all traits of interest. But what happens when two or more traits are used in selection? Can forward progress be made on both traits?…

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Managing Feed Costs in a Time of Expensive Inputs

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As we enter the fall and look ahead to winter feeding months, hay prices continue to climb. With feed accounting for more than 50% of production costs, managing these expenses is critical to remaining profitable in current times. Two strategies for decreasing feed costs are: 1) extending the grazing season to reduce hay feeding; and 2) making smart hay purchasing decisions to get the most out of your investment. The grazing season can…

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Small Farm Ram Management Options

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Breeding season is here and if you want to add lambs to your flock next year you are going to need a ram. Timing your lambing to suit your schedule requires you to keep a ram separate until you're ready to introduce him to your ewes. Keep in mind, rams of different ages have different feed requirements for maintenance and must be housed with companions as they too, need a 'flock' to keep…

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Shepherd to Shepherd: Producer Forum Blog #3

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For our third producer forum we asked our four shepherds, all enrolled in NSIP, how they select their breeding rams and how they make breeding decisions on their farms. Their answers, shared below, reflect the differences among the farms in environment, markets, individual flock goals and management styles. As a reminder, our producer forum includes: Michelle Canfield (Canfield Farms, Western Washington), Lynn Fahrmeier (Fahrmeier Katahdins, Western Missouri), Roxanne Newton (Hound River Farm, South…

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