Comparison of Annual Forages for Grazing Lambs on Previously-Cropped Ground

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $7,496.10
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Michael Seipel
Hickory Hollow Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: millet, oats
  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns

    Proposal summary:

    This project will compare the suitability of summer annual forages for lamb grazing as well as the economics of grazing growing lambs on spring, summer, and winter annual forage crops as compared to average returns from corn and soybean production on these acres. Seventeen acres of previously cropped ground will be sown to oats in the spring; Katahdin hair sheep ewes and lambs will strip-graze the oats in April, May, and early June. After the oats are grazed, nine acres will be planted to teff (summer annual) and eight acres split between sorghum-sudan and pearl millet. The summer annual forages will be strip-grazed by weaned lambs. Measures used to evaluate the annual forage types will be dry matter production, animal unit grazing days provided, and lamb weight gain.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    - Emergence and stand: I will use visual appraisal and digital photography to document how quickly each of the forages (oats, teff, pearl millet, sorghum-sudan, ryegrass, crimson clover) emerges and what percent ground cover it provides after full emergence
    - Dry matter production: small areas (approx. 4’x4’) will be fenced off for each of the forage types; DM production per acre will be estimated by clipping a measured area within these enclosures each time that animals are turned in to graze that area of the field
    - Animal unit grazing days provided: for each forage type, I will record the number and size of animals grazing and the length of time grazed so that we can calculate and compare the number of animal unit days of grazing provided per acre for each forage type.
    - Weight gain: ewe and lamb weights will be documented before and after the period of grazing the oats; lamb gain will be recorded before and after turn-in to each forage type when grazing the summer annuals; to facilitate comparison across the season as the animals grow, gain will be standardized to live weight gain per day as percentage of the animal’s body weight at the beginning of that grazing period
    - Economics of the grazing system: all direct input costs associated with establishing and managing the forages will be recorded; revenue will be estimated by taking the weight gained by lambs during the time their mothers are grazing the oats and while the lambs are grazing the summer annuals, and valuing that weight gain at the current market price for lambs during the fall of 2013
    - in the event that there is surplus forage production at some time during the project (lambs cannot keep up with forage growth), surplus forage will be harvested; the teff will probably be cut and baled for hay—the quantity of hay and its estimated market value will be recorded; the sorghum-sudan and pearl millet will probably be harvested using stocker calves; I do not have a ready way to weigh these calves, so I will just record the AU grazing days provided and estimate their value at a custom grazing rate of $30/AU month.

    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.