Thursday, January 09, 2014

Cold Weather Management Schedule Important for Successful Sheep and Goat Production

Contact: Dr. Jodie A. Pennington, region small ruminant educator
Headquartered at Newton County Extension Center, Neosho, Mo.
Tel: (417) 455-9500

NEOSHO, Mo. -- Dr. Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Extension, says it is essential to have a protocol for the winter management of sheep and goats.

“Practices and dates may vary with your specific program. Regardless of your program, it is important to record each task and the results so you can refer to it in following seasons or years,” said Pennington.  “Generally, this schedule is for late spring kidding or lambing.”

However, Pennington says a producer can adjust back one or two months if they want animals to give birth earlier in the year or go forward they want to kid or lamb later in the year.

“Some practices should be conducted every month, like evaluations of forages, body condition of animals, foot care, health, and need for culling and internal or external parasite control,” said Pennington. “But there are several things that must be part of cold weather management.”

Evaluate forage conditions and inventory.  Start looking for hay if needed.  Winter annuals should have been sown by early September if adequate moisture was in the soil. Spring grasses can be sown from late January to early March.  Summer annuals can be sown from early May to early June. Get a copy of MU Extension Guide G4652 for more specifics.

If feed is limited, consider putting non-lactating goats in good vegetation in the woods.  They should do well.  Remember to provide trace mineralized salt and protection from predators.  “You might also consider letting either sheep or goats eat your left-over garden or maybe corn stalks if you have them,” said Pennington.

In severe weather, sheep and goats will eat more than normal in order to maintain body temperature.  Make sure the water is not frozen and is available to the animals.

Keep in mind that it is possible to lose most of the babies born in cold, wet weather if there is not shelter for the babies.  If it is wet, then shelter is needed for babies born in cold, wet weather as they will not be able to maintain body temperature outside.  If it is not wet, then a wind break will be needed to protect the babies in cold weather.

Provide best quality forage to animals in breeding herd. Test hay for nutrient content to insure that minimal nutrients are available to meet the nutrient needs of your animals.

Evaluate animals for body condition and health. Sell unsound and inferior animals.  Be especially critical of animals with no teeth.

Begin preparing for the breeding season. Pull out your production records and decide which does or ewes will be bred early and which will be bred later.  Decisions on marketing will affect breeding dates for the animals.  Give bucks and rams a good examination and selenium shots.

Keep fences in good repair to prevent breeding accidents.  Review all facilities to minimize exposure of sheep and goats to nails, debris, mud or manure.

For more information related to goat and sheep production, contact Pennington at the Newton County Extension Center, (417) 455-9500, or by e-mail at


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