The next pasture they grazed was a 5 acre paddock of spring oats, an annual forage. Later in the summer, they were switched to a 5 acre paddock of dwarf pearl millet, another annual forage. The lambs always had access to the grass (fescue) in the central laneway. Like the silvopasture, it had not been grazed for ~18 months.
|Silvopastuure: cool season perennials|
Previously, the pasture system had been used to graze the bucks in the Western Maryland Pasture-Based Meat Goat Performance Test. After 11 years of performance testing, levels of pasture infectivity (with worm larvae) had reached very high levels, as evidenced by the very high fecal egg counts in many of the goats.
After the last buck test ended in 2016, the fields were rested, then planted in corn. By the time the corn was harvested, it was too late to establish perennial pasture, so annual forages were used for this year's project. Now that this year's project is over, the fields will be seeded to cool season perennial forages. Two acres will be set aside for warm season annuals.
Another reason why the lambs didn't have any problems with worm parasites is because they came to the site relatively "worm-free," as they had been born in the winter in a confinement (dairy) system. After (early) weaning, they remained in confinement, never pastured or exposed to worm larvae. Zero grazing is a common method of keeping lambs relatively free from parasite infection.
|Mouthful of millet|
The lambs were born in the winter months (January-February). Upon arrival on April 26, their average age was 78 days. In July-August, when worm parasites are typically the worst (in Maryland), the lambs were 4-5 months old. This aged lamb can tolerate parasites better than a 2-3 month old lamb, born in the spring. One way to reduce parasite problems is to lamb/kid earlier in the year (or in the fall).
The lambs were also supplemented with feed, a 16% CP mixture of whole barley, soybean meal, and minerals. The grain was gradually increased, until the lambs were consuming 2 lbs. per head per day. The feed was always hand-fed twice daily in 8 foot galvanized metal feed troughs. Despite being fed twice a day, the lambs proved to be active grazers.
Eventually, the feed was increased to 2.5 lbs and to 3 lbs. towards the very end of the project. Supplemental feeding is another way to mitigate the effects of parasitism. Animals in better body condition are better able to tolerate the negative effects of parasites. By-pass protein has proven to be especially beneficial.
Throughout the project, the lambs had FAMACHA© scores of mostly 1's, with some 2's, and an occasional 3. There was no point in collecting fecal samples, as parasites were a non-issue in the project. It was fun to raise small ruminant when parasites are a non-issue!