Friday, May 25, 2018

Second Weighing

The lambs were weighed for a second time today. For the past two weeks, they gained from 2 to 14 lbs. for an average of 8.4 ± 2.5 lbs. The median gain was 8 lbs. Stated another way, ADG ranged from 0.143 to 1.00 lbs. per day for an average of 0.599 ± 0.177 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.571. No lamb lost weight.

Nineteen ram lambs gained 0.608 ± 0.210 lbs. per day. Seventeen short-scrotum rams gained 0.661 ± 0.145 lbs. per day. Twenty-four wethers gained 0.549 ± 0.161 lbs. per day. FAMACHA© scores were mostly 1 or 2. There were a couple approaching 3.

For the first 28 days of the project, gained ranged from 9.4 to 16.8 lbs. and averaged 16.9 ± 3.9 lbs. The median gain was 16.8 lbs. ADG ranged from 0.336 to 0.993 lbs. per day and averaged 0.605 ± 0.141 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.600 lbs. per day. No lamb has lost weight.

For the first 28 days, ram lambs have gained 0.592 ± 0.146 lbs. per day. Short-scrotum rams have gained 0.631 ± 0.103 lbs.per day. Wethers have gained 0.597 ± 0.161 lbs. per day.

Sex No. ADG -2nd period 28-d ADG
Ram 19 0.608 ± 0.210 0.592 ± 0.146
Wether 25 0.549 ± 0.161 0.597 ± 0.161
Short scrotum 17 0.661 ± 0.145 0.631 ± 0.103
ALL 60 0.599 ± 0.177 0.605 ± 0.141

The lambs are currently grazing a five-acre paddock of spring oats. The dwarf pearl millet pasture (5 acres) was planted today. The lambs are also consuming 2 lbs. of grain per day. The grain is a balanced mixture of whole barley, soybean meal, and minerals. It is split into two equal feedings.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Twilight Tour & Tasting

The Twilight Tour & Tasting, to be held Wednesday, June 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center (in Boonsboro, Maryland), will feature wagon tours of the sheep research program at WMREC. The event will showcase all products produced by small ruminants (sheep and goats):  meat, dairy, fiber, and vegetation control.

Arik Mills from Rik's Cafe in Hagerstown will be the featured chef. Participants will have the opportunity to sample dishes made from lamb and chevon (goat meat). They will be able to sample cheese made from sheep and goat milk. In addition, there will be a fiber demonstration and information presented about using small ruminants to control unwanted vegetation. The event will include a discussion of matching wines with meat and cheese.

Pre-registration is required by June 1. The cost is $10 per person. Children under the age of 10 will be admitted free. To register, go to

Friday, May 11, 2018

First Weighing

The lambs were weighed for the first time today. Since arrival on April 26, the sixty lambs have gained an average of 8.5 ± 2.5 lbs. Gain ranged from 4.0 to 17.4 lbs. The median gain was 8.2 lbs.

Average daily gain (ADG) ranged from 0.286 to 1.2 lbs. per day and averaged 0.610 ± 0.177 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.586 lbs. per day. Upon arrival the lambs averaged, 57.3 ± 9.6 lbs. After two weeks, they average 65.8 ± 9.9 lbs.

The wether lambs (n=24) had the most variable, but highest rate of gain:  0.645 ± 0.207 lbs. per day.  The short-scrotum rams (n=17) gained 0.601 ± 0.149 lbs. per day, while the rams (n=19) gained 0.575 ± 0.161 lbs. per day.

The sixty lambs are currently consuming a diet of pasture, hay, and grain. The grain is a mixture of whole barley, soybean meal, and minerals. The lambs are currently consuming 0.75 lbs. per head twice per day. The hay is an alfalfa/grass mix. The pasture is a silvopasture of cool season perennials.

Sex No. Weight, lbs Gain, lbs ADG, lb/d
Ram 19 69.2 ± 12.3 8.0 ± 2.0 0.575 ± 0.161
Wether 25 64.0 ± 8.2 9.0 ± 2.9 0.645 ± 0.207
Short scrotum 17 64.6 ± 8.4 8.4 ± 2.1 0.601 ± 0.149

All lambs had FAMACHA© scores of 1-2. None required deworming or any health treatment.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

By the Numbers

Sixty-one lambs are being used in this year's research project: 19 ram lambs, 25 wethers, and 17 short-scrotum rams. Upon arrival they ranged in weight from 36.0 to 80.3 lbs. and averaged 57.6 ± 9.7 lbs. Birth type averaged 1.76. Age ranged from 60 to 95 days.

The ram lambs are the heaviest and oldest. They ranged in weight from 40.4 to 80.3 lbs. and averaged 61.2 ± 11.5 lbs. The median weight was 64.4 lbs. Birth type averaged 1.89. Age of the ram lambs ranged from 60 to 95 days and averaged 81 ± 10 days. The median age is 78 days.

The wethers are the most numerous group. Twenty five ranged in weight from 36.0 to 76.4 lbs. and averaged 55.7±  9.1 lbs. The median weight was 56.2 lbs. Birth type averaged 1.71.  Age of the wethers ranged from 61 to 95 days and averaged 77 ± 7 days. The median age is 76 days.

The short-scrotum rams are the youngest and intermediate in starting weight. Seventeen ranged in weight from 41.4 to 68.6 lbs. and averaged 56.2 ± 7.7 l bs. The median weight was 55.2 lbs. Birth type averaged 1.69. Age of the short-scrotum rams ranged from 60 to 95 days and averaged 76 ± 8 days. The median age is 74 days.
Sex No. Avg. Age, d Avg. Birth type Avg. Weight, lbs.
Ram 19 81 1.89 61.2
Wether 25 77 1.71 55.7
Short scrotum 17 76 1.69 56.2

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Arrival of the Lambs

Sixty-one lambs arrived at the Western Maryland Research & Education Center last Thursday, April 26. The arrival of the lambs ushered in a new era at the research center. For 11 years, from 2006 until 2016, the Western Maryland Pasture Based Meat Goat Performance Test was conducted at the research center. The test ended in 2016 for many reasons. 2018 marks the beginning of a new sheep research program.

Arrival day - April 26, 2018
The sixty-one lambs are dairy lambs, mostly East Friesian, with some Lacaune mixed in. They were born from the end of January through February. The lambs are all male. Nineteen are intact rams. Twenty-five are wethers. Seventeen are short-scrotum rams or cryptorchids.

A short-scrotum ram is one whose testicles were pushed up inside the body cavity before banding. Because short-scrotum rams retain their testicles, they should still possess the growth characteristics of intact males. Because their testicles are the same temperature as their body temperature (not several degrees cooler), they should lack the fertility of intact males.

A first taste of grass
The purpose of this year's research project is to compare the growth, carcass characteristics, and fertility traits of ram, wether, and short-scrotum rams. The lambs will be weighed bi-weekly. Towards the end of the project, they will be scanned to determine their back fat and loin muscle depth. It is proposed that five lambs from each group be harvested to collect actual carcass data.

Towards the end of the project, the lambs will be evaluated for libido. Semen will be collected from those lambs that successfully mount ewes. Blood will be drawn to evaluate testosterone levels. The testes from the slaughtered lambs will be evaluated.

Final Data

The lambs were weighed for a final time on September 25. This was 91 days after they were split into their two treatment groups. For this fi...