I encourage sheep producers to consider the possibilities of utilizing harvested corn fields. This will give you some extra time without purchasing grains and even forages as we get into the late fall of 2001.
The following are guidelines to follow if harvested cornfields are available:
Gleaning corn fields. Harvest losses from several sources indicate that approximately 3 bushels of shelled corn are lost per acre during harvesting. This equates to approximately 150 to 160 pounds of shelled corn per acre, a great feed cost savings during mid- to late-gestation for the ewe flock.
If you are planning on gleaning corn fields with your sheep flock, use some preventive management measures prior to placing the flock into the fields.
Several sheep producers are placing temporary fencing around neighbor’s cornfields, as well as their own, for this gleaning process. This practice is also beneficial to the grain producer, as volunteer corn will not be as large of a problem and additional fertilizer is provided by the sheep to the grain field while they are harvesting the excess corn.
* Vaccinate ewe and lambs for overeating disease. Vaccinate twice at a 10- to 14-day interval prior to turning them into corn fields.
* Fill sheep up with hay prior to turning them into corn fields. If they are full of hay, they will not consume as much corn.
* Only allow the sheep on the corn field for short periods of time (one to two hours) to allow them to adjust to the amount of grain being consumed.
* Supplement with poor quality (not moldy, dusty) hay, unless grasses or other forages are available for consumption.
Fall feeding tips. Provide good pastures for fall grazing. This will help producers reduce feed costs because they will not need to bring ewes into the barn until closer to lambing.
If feed supply is scarce, limit feed the first three months of the ewe’s gestation period, not the last two months. Increase both the quantity and quality of feed the last two months of the ewe’s gestation period.
Continue to provide free choice salt and mineral mix to your sheep. This will provide them with needed vitamins and minerals and help prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Provide an adequate source of clean fresh water. Sheep require about 1 gallon of water per 4 pounds of dry matter consumed. Sheep will maintain health and pregnancy better with a good water supply.
Check ram. If rams have been in with the ewes for two to three heat cycles, now is the time to replace the main ram with a check ram. At this point, it is better to have late lambs than no lambs at all.
Most of your flock should have been bred in the first two heat cycles. Producers should consider culling ewes that breed and lamb late. These are the same ewes that will continue to be problem breeders year after year.
It will soon be time for commercial producers that breed in November and December to prepare their rams for the upcoming breeding season.
First of all, make sure there are a sufficient number of rams available to cover all of the ewes that need to be bred.
Do evaluation. Secondly, make sure the rams are sound, healthy, and in average body condition. Rams that are not able to move around the pastures well, are over- or under-conditioned, have a heavy parasite load, or are in otherwise unsuitable condition for breeding, will cause great disappointment during a normal lambing season.
Several veterinarians in Ohio offer the service to have your ram’s semen evaluated. Teaser rams are not as critical as we get later into the fall but are still a good management tool to bring those ewes into estrus prior to introduction of the fertile ram.
Ultrasounds. Confirmation of pregnancy by ultrasound should be done 45 to 70 days post breeding. Cull open ewes or expose them to a ram for late lambs. Several veterinarians offer pregnancy diagnosis as a service in Ohio.