Technology Boosts Rate of Gain: Evaluating the Effects of Repurposed Poultry Housing Versus Intensive Grazing for the Modern Sheep Producer

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $29,997.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2027
Grant Recipient: Shepherd's Hope Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Delaware
Project Leader:
Steven Breeding
Shepherd's Hope Farm


  • Animal Products: meat


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    This project aims to compare and contrast how technology can boost the rate of gain for lambs raised in repurposed poultry housing versus intensive grazing pastures for the modern sheep producer. Although prior research has been conducted in a similar fashion in different regions of the country, it is believed that the Delmarva Peninsula presents an interesting set of environmental challenges for the raising of sheep. Addressing and overcoming these challenges would open an emerging market and new revenue stream that would allow existing farms to be more sustainable. The study will examine the weight gain, FAMACHA scores and body condition scores of two separate groups of genetically similar lambs, one that will graze intensively on pasture while the other is fed in a controlled environment of a repurposed poultry house.  It is our belief that with the ability to control multiple environmental factors, the poultry house lambs will outperform their counterparts within the study. The ability to keep the lambs in a constant environment and having access to a consistent feed source should prove to be a much more efficient management system. Just as important as our research data, farmer to farmer and youth/next generation outreach is a strong objective in our proposal. Sharing research data in order to help others make informed decisions about different management systems to help stay environmentally sustainable and financially profitable is a win for all.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to compare the rate of gain and feed efficiency in pasture based lambs with those of contemporary animals raised in an intensely managed poultry house setting. Therefore, as my hypothesis, I plan to prove that poultry house lambs will outperform their counterparts due to the more controlled environment that is fed a ration versus grasses from a pasture. Through the use of electronic identification, digital scales, and the sheep management system, we will ensure not only accuracy with our data, but also that our sheep will be calm and transition smoothly through the sheep management system.  The second objective of the project seeks to help educate the current poultry producers that may be seeking another income stream or additional options for the housing that they already have set up for production animals.  Lastly, our third objective seeks to develop and be the source of educational outreach to sheep industry partners and the next generation of agriculturists that are a part of the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association, Delaware 4H, Delaware FFA, University of Maryland, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical and Community College. 

    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.