Utilizing Cover Crops for Sheep

Final Report for YENC12-057

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2012: $1,982.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Manager:
Rick Schmidt
NDSU Extension Service
Expand All

Project Information


The cover crop and sheep grazing project sponsored by NCR-SARE held its year end tour on October 20, 2012 with a field tour and ultrasound program for sheep producer of all ages.

The project began on August 15 with the seeding of a cocktail mix of soybeans, lentils, red proso millet, mammoth red clover, soil buster forage radish, purple top turnip, and 9 lbs. of Morton oats per acre. The cover crop was sown into a field that produced yellow peas during the 2012 growing season, which was harvested on July 25.

The summer and fall were abnormally dry so the cover crop didn’t have as much biomass production as we would have liked early on. An early frost killed out the warm season grasses like the millet. The remaining plants are growing good now as the moisture situation has improved.

The program that we had put together through the NCR-SARE grant included a pretest of many of the plants that were to be talked about on the walking tour. Participants were given 13 plants from oats, radish, crested wheatgrass, turnip, to Kentucky bluegrass. Each plant was discussed on how sheep utilize them, the nutritional values, and time of year for grazing. The average score on the pre-test was 26 percent.

* Dr. Kevin Sedivec, NDSU Range Specialist, helped by providing his research with cover crops over the past several years.
* Dr. Reid Redden, NDSU Sheep Specialist, assisted with hands-on ultra-sounding.

The walking tour had the participants walk through the cover crop, and identify the various plants. We discussed the soil health contributions as well as the ways to manage the cover crop as a forage source.

An additional to the program was to do a pasture walk through a native prairie pasture. We identified various plants and determined if sheep would do well on a particular piece of land or not. Dependent on the types of grasses present, we discussed the proper time for pasture utilization to obtain the greatest amount of value from the soil.

The afternoon sessions were done by Dr. Reid Redden, NDSU Sheep Specialist, who provided the participants the opportunity to ultrasound sheep and learn about the technology of ultra-sounding. The presentation included the science and economics of ultra-sounding and why sheep producers may consider utilizing the service. Timing didn’t work out as well as we hoped to hold the workshop. The ewes were between 28 and 48 days pregnant and 39 percent didn’t show as being pregnant. We wanted to pick a day where the cover crop would still be very vegetative and the ewes far enough along to where youth would be able to find lambs easily. We will re-ultrasound the ewes in 25 days which were not far enough along on the day of the workshop. Ideally, the ewes would be between 45 and 60 days pregnant for ultra-sounding.

The day of the workshop was a beautiful North Dakota fall day. We didn’t have quite the turnout that pre-registered, but the 18 people that did attend really found the program to be valuable. The other 12 pre-registered individuals all received packets and a program summary. This program in part will be presented at the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Convention and the beginner sheep schools being held this winter and next spring across North Dakota.

I really enjoyed working with NCR-SARE and truly believe this program has reached producers who can put the information to good use. It has created awareness and interest in the use of cover crops in a sheep enterprise, talked a lot about nutrition from native pastures, and with the hands-on ultra-sounding, brought the science and interest into the forefront for many beginning sheep producers.

I have enclosed the packet of handouts, which were distributed to all registrants, and a few of the pictures that were taken on the day of the tour. [Editor's Note: The handouts, photos, and articles are attached.]

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.