Lamb Growth Study

Final Report for YNC09-047

Project Type: Youth
Funds awarded in 2009: $398.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Background: I started raising animals in 4H because I was interested in raising animals for profit on our farm. I want to study growth potential feeding different feeds to lambs and tracking profitability.

Goals: I wanted to study the best possible way to raise sheep for profit and to make it as easy as possible for me to do so. We had a lot of weeds in our pasture and they also cleaned it without using any chemicals. I also used the waste from the barns to fertilize our garden.

Process: I divided my lambs into three main groups, fed each group different rations, and weighed them on a weekly schedule. I wanted to see the rate of gain depending on the different feed groups.

My dad helped me with weighing each group and keeping the records on the computer so we could see the outcomes. We also talked with our feed supplier for a feed mix for the lambs. We went with a feed ration that was developed a few years ago by Wes Limesand, who used to work at North Dakota State University (NDSU) as the main shepherd. We also consulted Pipestone Veterinary with any concerns we had with our ewes. We also attended a two day seminar that dealt with lambing and feeding there.

Lambs were divided into 3 groups and weighed on a weekly basis for the first 11 weeks of life. Each feeding the feed was weighed and logged. This is shown on the report along with the costs to calculate total group feed costs.

Bottle lambs were also inserted into the groups to get feedback on the different weight gains for them.

There were 7 in each control group; each group had one bottle lamb also. They were all Katahdin lambs. The one group was in a pasture of about 1 acre in size. The paddocks were 40 x 60 for creep feeding. The sheep were not moved in the paddocks except to be weighed on a weekly basis.

Group 1
Was fed ground feed, wet beet pellets, and grass clippings. The lambs didn't seem to want to eat the beet pellets, and grass clippings were actually from the yard, swept after mowing. The ewes that were in the group seemed to like both the pellets and grass clippings though so for future feeding we will try and introduce the pellets into the feed for them to cut the amount of hay required.

The data suggest to us that this is the future of our production. Feed lambs grain only, and wean as soon as possible to get them started on the feed.

Group 2
Was fed Hay and Ground Feed only. Growth was good as well, but wasted hay that wasn't utilized was a big concern. One big surprise was that as the lambs grew their daily ounce gain of weight was decreasing. We rationalized that this was due to the quality of hay or that their stomachs weren't being fully utilized with grain for a more constant gain.

Group 3
Was allowed to feed on green grass with their mothers and had access to kernel corn. This was the way we had fed before and although the cost of feeding this group was dramatically less, the weight gain was very slow and no way would they be able to meet market weight quickly. This also forced us to move them into new grazing areas quicker.

Final results conclude:
Weaning lambs at age 7 weeks and putting them on a total grain diet, allowed the ewes to re-breed back earlier for November lambing, plus freed up pasture and we were able to control the lambs in a feed lot setting easily. Flies were a problem with the mixed feed. This also reduced the need to have corn and hay for lambs to utilize. The daily ounce gain was in our minds equal to that of a mixed feed and grass hay. By keeping the lambs stomachs full of grain instead of hay, they grew faster and healthier. Also lambs that were on a strict green grass and corn diet started showing signs of diarrhea, but after moving them onto the grain diet, the symptoms disappeared and were able to raise all lambs to market weight without any losses after the first week of birth. This was huge as the feed was purchased from Barnsville grain, and had medication built into the mix so no other supplement was needed for the lambs. Lambs were introduced to mixed grain at an earlier stage but didn't seem to show any interest. In the future, if we can get them to start eating at an earlier stage, our gains should get a jump start.

We had great pasture weed control, and built extra pens in different parts of the yard so we were able to maintain a larger area that we didn't have to mow with our lawnmower. We were able to maintain 50 head of sheep on our 14 acre yard. This consisted of about 10 acres of pasture, but by rotating them constantly we were able to have weed control and they never over grazed any area. We also used the fertilizer left over from the barns and planted raspberries and our garden.

We had amazing results with our raspberries and are looking at selling them next year. Others have asked to purchase the fertilizer next year also.

We are also experimenting with a CIDR program to try and get our ewes to lamb in November so we can sell in the Easter market for a greater profit.

We are now looking at taking what we learned to a larger pasture next year and try to raise a larger number of animals.

Our goal is to raise around 100 head in our local farm and possibly grow from that. We did try breeding 8 ewes last summer and 5 lambed in November. The lambs are awesome and we haven't lost a single one. We like this enough we will try and get half breeding each time of year. The increase price plus not worrying about flies or damp spring conditions is great for raising the lambs, and the cold doesn't seem to affect them in weight gain. They were quicker to wean and growth seems to be right on pace.

Dad shared the profits with me and now I get to purchase my school clothes by myself and am saving to purchase a new computer for next year, with the help of another year of lambs.

We are going to make this information available to our 4H County extension agent so others can learn from it. We also have helped another family into starting raising sheep, and have told them everything we have learnt from our study. We are trying to form a small group of growers to try and cut down on costs of feed, vaccination, and transportation of lambs to market.

The program helped us greatly in determining a better way of feeding our lambs in the future. It was a lot of work weighing them each weekend, but the information we gained off our farm was very valuable and I will continue to learn and experiment with different options in the future. You have to always look for a better and cheaper way to do things to make a profit. Thank you so much.


Participation Summary
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.