Effect of Continuous Suckling/”Ewe-rearing” on Growth and Level of Parasitism of Lambs and on Productivity and Profitability of Lamb Operations

2011 Annual Report for GNE11-029

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,741.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Marlon Knights
West Virginia University
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights, Ph.D.
West Virginia University

Effect of Continuous Suckling/”Ewe-rearing” on Growth and Level of Parasitism of Lambs and on Productivity and Profitability of Lamb Operations

Summary

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing” on growth, intestinal parasitism, and productivity and profitability of sheep production in Appalachia. Weaning at approximately 3-4 months of age is routinely practiced by most lamb producers. One reason weaning is practiced is so that lambs can be placed into feedlots and grown and fattened to reach market weight and condition. However, weaning prior to slaughter may not be necessary as there is an increasing demand for younger lambs at lighter slaughter weights with minimal finish.

Weaning has been associated with psychological and nutritional stress on the lamb that might compromise the growth, immune function, and welfare of the young animal resulting in an overall decline in productivity. In some studies, continuous suckling has been shown to lower susceptibility to parasitism and increase pre-slaughter growth rates of lambs. Worm burden has been shown to be reduced in young lambs consuming milk compared to their counterparts on dry-feed. Higher growth rates have been observed in late-weaned and un-weaned lambs. The proposed study will further examine the impact of continuous suckling on growth rate and potential interactions with type of diet.

An increase in the demand and price for lighter (< 100 lbs) market lambs in the Northeastern United States, suggests that market weights can potentially be achieved by 3-5 months of age. Lambs for this market can be finished on pasture while still suckling their dam and in so doing avoid the stress of weaning and subsequent effects on the health and growth of the lambs. If successful, the results of this study will lead to the development and adoption of a low-cost, simple management strategy that can enhance agriculture sustainability by increasing productivity and profitability of sheep enterprises while improving the health and welfare of lambs.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The overall objective of the proposed project is to investigate the potential benefit of continuous suckling/“ewe rearing” on the productivity of sheep enterprises. The specific objectives include:

1. To determine the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing”
with and without supplementation on growth rate of lambs

2. To determine the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing”
with and without supplementation on degree of parasitism
of lambs

3. To determine the effect of continuous suckling/“ewe-rearing”
on weight and body condition changes of ewes

4. To compare the economic benefit of continuous suckling/“ewe-
rearing” of lambs to market to the traditional practice of
weaning lambs and fattening to market

This project is to involve spring born lambs which are not yet born. In the meantime, I have been practicing assigning body condition scores to ewes at the University farms as in objective three.

Accomplishments/Milestones

I have started researching scales to locate a portable scale that would be the best for the work we will undergo in the spring. I have been researching different concentrates as well for guaranteed analysis and cost to identify feeds that are best for the project and within our budget. I have spoken with a number of producers and extension agents to locate producers willing to participate in this study. I have presented the outline of the study at the 2011 West Virginia Small Ruminants Project (WVSRP) Annual Short Course to further identify producers willing to participate.

In February and March we will collect lambing data and finalize producers who will participate in the upcoming study. There has been some concern from producers about having adequate facilities for the project; they do not have the five pastures that will be required for the project. We will be working on a solution to this problem in the next couple of months.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The results of the proposed study have direct implications on the management practices that producers might employ to enhance the productivity and profitability of small-scale sheep operations in the Northeastern United States. I have presented the project outline at the 2011 WVSRP Annual Short Course and the material presented will be posted on the WVSRP website, http://sheepandgoats.wvu.edu/.

Collaborators:

Brad Smith

brad.smith@mail.wvu.edu
West Virginia Small Ruminant Project Director/WVU Grant County Extension Agent
115 1/2 Virginia Ave.
Petersburg, WV 26847
Office Phone: 3042574688
Kellie D’Souza

kdsouza87@gmail.com
Graduate Student
West Virginia University
Animal and Nutritional Sciences
PO Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26506
Office Phone: 3043761020
Dr. Marlon Knights

marlon.knights@mail.wvu.edu
Assistant Professor
West Virginia University
1044 Agricultural Sciences Building
PO Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26506
Office Phone: 3042931946
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights

dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu
Agricultural Economics Specialist
West Virginia University Extension Service
2038 Agricultural Sciences Building
PO Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26506
Office Phone: 3042937606