Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Research Team

Susan Schoenian is the Sheep & Goat Specialist with University of Maryland Extension. She is originally from Clarksville, Maryland. She earned animal science degrees from Virginia Tech and Montana State University. She has been with University of Maryland Extension since 1988. Susan can be reached at (301) 432-2767 x343 or by email at sschoen@umd.edu. Be sure to follow the Maryland Small Ruminant Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/MDSmallRuminant.

Jeff Semler is the Agricultural Extension Agent in Washington County, Maryland. Earlier in his career he was a 4-H agent. Jeff is originally from Clear Spring, Maryland. He earned animal science degrees from West Virginia University and the University of Connecticut. He has been with University of Maryland Extension since 1988 and has been part of the small ruminant research team since its inception in 2004. Jeff can be reached at (301) 791-1404 x 325 or by email at jsemler@umd.edu.

Mary Beth Bennett (L) and Jeff Semler (R)

Dr. Mary Beth Bennett is an Extension Agent in Berkeley County, West Virginia. She is originally from Pennsylvania. She earned degrees in agricultural and extension education from Pennsylvania State University. Mary Beth has been with West Virginia University Extension since 1993 and has been part of the small ruminant research team since 2006. Mary Beth can be reached at (304) 264-1936 or by email at mbbennett@mail.wvu.edu.

Dr. Amanda Grev is the Pasture & Forage Specialist for University of Maryland Extension. She is originally from Rochester, Minnesota. She earned degrees at North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota. Her research focused on the interaction between animal nutrition, forages, and pasture management. Amanda joined University of Maryland Extension in 2019. Be sure to follow the Maryland Forages Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/MarylandForages/. Amanda can be reached at  (301) 432-2767 x339 or by email at agrev@umd.edu.

Pam Thomas is an administrative assistant for the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center. Pam is an integral part of the small ruminant research team, as she records the data in the field. She is partial to goats, but enjoys working with the lambs. Pam can be reached at (301) 432-2767 x315 or by email at pthomas@umd.edu.

Nina Price is the animal caretaker. She feeds, waters, and checks the lambs daily. Nina is a high school student at Boonsboro High School. She is active in 4-H and FFA.

Other team members
Ashley Travis, 4-H Youth Agent, Washington County
Chris Anderson, 4-H Animal Science Specialist, State Office
Maegan Perdue, Agricultural Educator, Worcester County
Dr. Dahlia O'Brien, Small Ruminant Specialist, Virginia State University

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Another week

The lambs (n=75) were weighed again on July 20. FAMACHA©, body condition, and dag scores were determined. The younger lambs received their second vaccination for Covexin-8. Lambs in the pasture group (n=37) continued to gain crazily. ADG ranged from 0.429 to 1.886 lbs. per day and averaged 1.104 ± 0.342 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 1.114 lbs. per day. No lambs lost weight.

Working the lambs
ADG of lambs in the supplemented group (n=38) was roughly half, averaging  0.562 ± 0.407 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.5 lbs. per day. The larger standard deviation indicates a wider variation in performance, -0.571 to 1.317 lbs. per day. Three lambs lost weight. One was dewormed. Two are being treated.

While no lamb has had a FAMACHA© score of greater than 3, FAMACHA© scores declined over the last week, especially among lambs in the pasture group, going from 1.5 to 2.0. The median FAMACHA© score remained 2.0. In the supplemented group the average FAMACHA© score went from 1.8 to 2.0. The median score was 2.0. Body condition scores remained relatively constant at 2.9 for both groups. All the lambs with positive dag scores have dried up.

Lambs sheltering during the heat of the day.
For the first 24 days of the experiment, ADG of lambs in the pasture group has ranged from 0.192 to 0.867 lbs. per day and is averaging 0.605 ± 0.164 lbs. per day. The median ADG is 0.617 lbs. per day. For the supplemented group, ADG has ranged from 0.050 to 0.717 and is averaging 0.394 ± 0.186 lbs. per day. The median ADG is 0.375 lbs. per day. Three lambs have been removed from the pasture group (for health reasons). One lamb from the supplemented group was removed.

The lambs are now grazing the 4th paddock in their rotation. In another week, they will return to the first paddock that they grazed. It is very hot and dry. Rain is desperately needed. So far, the lambs have selectively grazed  the chicory and red clover from their paddocks. The lambs in the supplemented group are now receiving 1 lb. of whole barley per head per day. On-average, this is 1.2% of their body weight.

Rain is needed.
For the rest of the experiment, the lambs will be weighed every 2 weeks. Frequent weighings can lead to some large weight swings.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

17 Days Into the Study

Katahdin ram lambs were delivered to the research site on June 15. On June 26, the lambs (n=79) were allocated to treatment groups based on weight, age, type of rearing, and fecal egg count:  PASTURE (n=40) vs. SUPPLEMENTED (n=39). The first weighing was July 6. Due to poor performance and wide variations in gain/loss, the lambs were re-assessed on July 13. The next working will be on July 27.

Each group is grazing 4 paddocks (5 acres)
For the first 10 days of the study, PASTURE lambs (n=40) lost an average of 0.034 lbs. per day. The median ADG was only 0.040 lbs. per day. Forty percent of the lambs; (n=16) lost weight. The large standard deviation (0.401 lbs.) is indicative of a wide variation in performance. The SUPPLEMENTED lambs (n=39) gained an average of 0.189 lbs. per day, but also had a large standard deviation (0.376 lbs.). Thirty-one percent (n=12) of the supplemented lambs lost weight.

We attribute the weight loss/poor performance to lack of acclimation. While the lambs had been grazing, the composition of their  pasture was considerably different than the pastures being used in the study: mostly grass vs. a lot of clover. On July 6, almost 37 percent of the lambs (n=29) had positive dag scores; some, high. A dag score (0-5) refers to the quantity of fecal material on the back side (tail, breach, and legs) of the animal. The younger lambs were most likely to have positive dag scores. There were more positive dag scores in the PASTURE group than the SUPPLEMENTED group: 19 vs. 10.

When the lambs were assessed again on July 13, considerable improvements were observed, especially in the PASTURE group (n=37) , which responded with robust gains. Since the last weighing, the lambs in the PASTURE group gained an average of; 0.929 ± 0.315 lbs. per day. The median ADG was 0.914 lbs. per day. No lamb  lost weight. Lambs in the SUPPLEMENTED group (n=38) gained less: 0.509 ± 0.331 lbs. per day. The median was 0.486 lbs. per day. Only one lamb in the study lost weight between July 6 and 13.

Supplemented lambs (n=38)
For the first 17 days of the study, ADG has ranged from -0.071 to 0.824 lbs. per day and averaged 0.362 ± 0.202 lbs. per day. The median gain is 0.376 lbs. per day. As a result of the recent weight gains, the lambs in the PASTURE group are out-gaining the SUPPLEMENTED lambs:  0.400 ± 0.191 lbs. per day vs. 0.325 ± 0.209 lbs. per day.

So far, internal parasites have not been a problem. No FAMACHA© scores above 3 have been observed. A couple of lambs with FAMACHA© scores of 3 have been dewormed. Body condition scores declined during the first 10 days of the study, but have since improved. The average BCS is 2.9 ± 0.4. Dag scores improved between July 6 and July 13.

Each group of lambs is being rotationally-grazed among four paddocks with similar forage quality and quantity. Forage samples are being collected. The lambs are currently grazing the 3rd paddock in their respective 5-acre systems. The supplemented lambs are currently receiving approximately 0.65 lbs. of barley per head per day. This represents less than 1% of their average body weight. The barley is being gradually increased until it reaches 1 lb. per head per day (slightly more than 1% of body weight.

Both groups have access to the central laneway. There is a roof structure that provides shelter/shade. It also covers the handling system. Water troughs and mineral feeders (n=2) are available to each group. High temperatures may also have contributed to the poor performance of the lambs in the first 10 days of the study.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Day 0

Using the June 15 data, the lambs were sorted by weight, age, type of rearing, and FEC. Every other lamb was allocated to either group 1 or group 2. Group 1 lambs will receive a daily supplement of energy (whole barley). Group 2 lambs will graze only. Both lambs will graze similar pastures. 

After an 11 day acclimation period, the lambs (n=79) were weighed on June 26 (day 0). FAMACHA© and body condition scores were determined. Weights ranged from 40.6 to 103.4 lbs. and averaged 72.6 lbs. ± 14.2 lbs. The median weight was 73.8 lbs.

FAMACHA© scores ranged from 1 to 3 and averaged 1.8 ± 0.4. The median FAMACHA© score was 1.8. No lamb required deworming based on the criteria of the FAMACHA© system and Five Point Check©. Body condition scores ranged from 2 to 3.5 and averaged 2.8 ± 0.4. The median body condition score was 3. Fecal samples were collected from the lambs on June 15.  Fecal egg counts (FEC) ranged from 0 to 750 epg and averaged 200 ± 171 epg.

Group 1 (supplemented)
Group 2 (pasture only)

The two groups have similar starting weights, ages, FAMACHA© and body conditions scores and fecal egg counts.

Age days
Pasture only


Katahdin Day in Western Maryland