(Submitted photo)

WOOSTER, Ohio — Specialist sunflowers — can they be used as a forage, or better yet, will sheep graze them? What about brassicas, such as turnips and radishes? If these were to be grazed, what is their feed value? These questions and many others were discussed at the 2021 Ohio Sheep Day, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s Small Ruminant Center in Wooster. 

Traditionally, Ohio Sheep Day is held in July, but with the uncertainty of summer programming, the 2021 Ohio Sheep Day planning committee elected to hold this year’s event in the fall. Per usual, the day began with welcomes and introductions. At the conclusion of the opening remarks, it was off to the pastures to begin field discussions. 

Nutrition

First on the list was alternative forages. Regardless of your operation, feed (whether this is in the form of forage, grain or a combination of both) represents the greatest proportion of production costs on a yearly basis. Therefore, improving digestibility and availability of feedstuffs throughout the year is critical to operation success. 

The team had a demonstration with 15 annual forages to offer sheep for grazing, planted Aug. 9. They are currently collecting forage dry matter yields, but collected and quantified quality data Sept. 29. Those interested in learning more about the test plots can keep an eye on the OSU Sheep Team’s website for follow up videos reviewing each forage.

Jason Hartschuh, of Crawford County, discussed making and feeding baleage. Small ruminant producers can safely and effectively feed baleage, but the margin of error is much smaller compared to feeding cattle. Christine Gelley, of Noble County, gave a recap of the livestock mortality composting certification available through Ohio State University Extension. 

Animal handling

Fall lambing at the small ruminant center was in full swing during the event. Center manager Gregg Fogle reviewed his protocol for fall lambing with the group. In Fogle’s opinion, there are no disadvantages to fall lambing. The lack of cold weather and the high demand for young feeder lambs during the winter months makes it a win-win.

Jacci Smith, of Delaware County, brought lambing simulators that offered scenarios involving anything from a breach lamb to ring womb for attendees to practice with. The day wrapped up with a general discussion of the handling facilities at the center and a review of tools on the market that can be used for hoof care.

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