Livestock Nutrition


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Look at this stuff. It is like Reed Canarygrass on steroids. In fact you can see it surrounded by RCG, which suddenly looks like Fine Fescue by comparison! I am seeing it here and there in the pastures because it came by seed from some Eastern WA hay I bought last February. I was running out of hay, just needed a few more tons. My local hay guy was out, so he trucked me over some first cutting hay that was pretty seedy. I noticed the milo-like seeds piling up in the barn under the hay troughs; and wondered what potentially monstrous thing I had brought in, and if I would regret it.

I think this is some hybrid variant of sorghum-sudangrass, but it is hella productive and the sheep really like it. I had seen a different version when I was at a KHSI Expo in Tennessee. We had toured a farm there where an NRCS guy had seeded it into his pastures. There, it looked nearly like corn, tall with very wide leaf blades. (Which is a reminder to us that corn is actually a strange species of grass.)

This has been a good summer for Sudangrass, hot and dry. Alas, I’m not sure if it’ll stick around, since it doesn’t like cold. But I won’t mind if it does!

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Last week I attended a talk on the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This continues to be a topic that “everyone is freaking out about” when I don’t think most need be. On hand to present were Amber Itle, a WSDA Field Veterinarian and Cat Marrier, a WSDA Feed Specialist. I was already pretty familiar with the law change, having read up on it when it was proposed in the Federal Register, and following it as it became law. But I did pick up a few tidbits of interesting info I didn’t know!

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The grass is looking fantastic this spring, we’ve had a great mix of warm weather and rain. The abundant feed is a gift, but it comes with the overhead of moving fencing every few days. I was able to start grass rotation on the south property March 5th, and the sheep just returned to that area two weeks ago. It is reed canarygrass (RCG) so though they grazed it down to nubbins in March, it is already taller than me and forming seed heads! It is both a very productive, and vexing grass.

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LineupI attended the KHSI Expo last weekend, in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Since it took me all day to fly there (I lose three hours traveling in that direction) I second-guessed myself whether it’s worth the time and expense to go all that way. But, it was, I had a great  time. Part of it is visiting with friends and making new ones, who are all sheep and Katahdin fanatics. I shared a room with two other women, so that was cheap; we were fed as part of the registration fee, so my biggest expense was just the flight. There were several really good speakers that I enjoyed- people I would likely never hear on this coast. I hardly got any sleep. And, I do enjoy the chance to evangelize NSIP when I can, and that venue is a prime opportunity. I’ll probably write a couple of posts about seminars I attended. But today I want to comment on the sale.

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Molasses faceTwo cases this week! The one bit of fallout from my farm sitter debacle was a ewe that stopped eating the Thursday following the weekend of missed feedings. She is one of my purchased ewes from Missouri, so I will be extra bummed if anything happens to her or her lambs. She looks bigger than most of the ewelambs, so I suspect she is carrying twins or triplets. She is also carrying a lot of condition, with a BCS of about 4.5. Fat ewes are at greater risk of pregnancy toxemia than ideally-conditioned ewes, ironically; as they are more likely to start mobilizing fat reserves to feed the lambs, and kick themselves into ketosis.

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I have written many times before about my affection for Pat Coleby’s book, Natural Sheep Care. This book is really just about mineral supplementation; but it has a strange mix of other topics sprinkled in. (Who knows why, they don’t really belong, but maybe a publisher thought the book needed to be rounded-out). I first read it several years ago, and my copy is worn from constant referencing.

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Lambing is almost over here, I have one late ewe left to deliver whom I think is due next weekend. Total count so far is 64 lambs, which is low, but not terrible. I have eight open ewes, six of which are yearlings. So now it’s time to pour over data and start making decisions about which sheep to keep, sell, and cull; as well as decisions about management changes for next year.

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