2018

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OPPCONCERNED SHEEP BREEDERS SOCIETY

New transmission finding has expanded your options. 

Orphaning and severe culling are no longer necessary to eradicate OPP.  See our ‘Library’ and ‘News’ pages for more information.

HOW TO FEED ORPHANS ALMOST AS GOOD AS MOM

 

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Since lambs intentionally orphaned for OPP eradication/control are often weaned earlier than those raised on their dams, we begin 

this orphan rearing section with some information on time of weaning. Following are management protocols that have worked for two

 OPP Society members, along with directions for heat-treating colostrum and comments on sanitation of milk feeding equipment. 

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Some Thoughts About Physiology and the Economics of Early/Late Weaning

Woody Lane, PhD Livestock Nutritionist — Lane Livestock Services, Roseburg, Oregonwoody@woodylane.com

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    • Ewe-reared lambs naturally begin consuming significant amount of dry feed at around three weeks of age. This assumes that the feed is of high quality (high digestibility, high protein). Orphan lambs weaned earlier will consume dry feed earlier.

• The consumption of dry feed stimulates rumen development. That dry feed goes into the small, immature rumen and ferments. The products of this fermentation (primarily butyrate) stimulate additional rumen growth and papillae development. 

• A lamb does NOT need a rumen to consume and utilize dry feed. Very high quality feed contains enough digestible energy and protein to support young non-ruminating lambs. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if YOU chew cud. If you don’t and you are reading this, then that shows that a rumen is not necessary for the good life. 

A rumen is really only necessary for the digestion of fiber (through fermentation), usage of feeds containing non-protein nitrogen, detoxifying some compounds, and the production of various B-vitamins. If these functions are not necessary for survival, and if the lamb receives B-vitamins from its feed, then the lamb will do OK and even thrive. Historically, a lot of scientific effort and emphasis has been directed at rumen development, which is definitely NOT necessary for successful weaning. The main purpose of weaning is to change from milk to a dry diet. Rumens can develop quite well on their own AFTER very early weaning. 

• Lambs on high quality, young pasture have access to leaves and shoots that can equal or surpass the nutritional value of standard grain-based creep feeds. These forages will maintain and support the healthy growth of young lambs after four weeks of age. 

When the lambs get older—after 50-60 days—they are in direct competition with their ewes for the same high quality forages (on pasture). Ewes do not sacrifice good grass/clover for their lambs. In other words, even the best mom will NOT step back to allow her lambs to eat clover instead of her. Ewes are bigger than lambs—and thus they consume more of the good quality forage than the lambs. If forage is limited, or in an intensive MIG system, those ewes consume a high percentage of the best-quality forage. 

On pasture, ewes and lambs all pick up worms (internal parasites). Lambs suffer more than ewes because lambs don’t yet have good immunity against the intestinal parasites, and those worms can really reduce lamb growth rate. However, proper worming procedure means that ALL the animals in a paddock must be wormed at the same time — not just the lambs or the “wormy-looking” animals. 

• Worm medicine (anthelmintic) is given by WEIGHT. Ewes receive a larger dose than lambs. This arithmetic means that worming an entire flock may mean that over 50% of the worm medicine is given to the ewes, who may not really need that medicine as much as the lambs. After 60-80 days of lactation, those ewes are just overhead. This has direct implications on cash flow, and the willingness to worm as frequently as needed. 

• Milk production in ewes peaks at 3.5 - 4 weeks post-lambing. By 60-80 days, milk production is relatively low (udder size is NOT a good indicator of milk production; ask any dairy producer about this), and may provide less than 50% of a single lamb’s nutrition. This percentage is less for twins, and even less for triplets. 

    • The scientific community is fairly solid that the break point in milk production and nutritional requirements of ewes is approximately 8 weeks (60 days). (I’m referring to the standard meat/wool breeds, not the specialized dairy breeds.) The 1985 NRC divides lactation into early and late periods at the 8-week mark. NSIP considers 60 days the breakpoint between two different traits (for farm flocks): 1) Pre-Weaning Growth, which is highly dependent on the mom’s milk and other maternal traits, and 2) Post-Weaning Growth, which is entirely dependent on the lamb’s own independent ability to grow.

    • In late lactation (after 60 days), a flock is really composed of two subflocks with wildly different nutritional requirements: 1) young growing lambs, and 2) ewes in late lactation (or maintenance, if the milk supply is very low). How to efficiently meet the needs of both groups, at the same time, in the same paddock, on pasture? Here, I use the word “efficient” in an economic, bottom-line sense. 

I’m not making any recommendations about weaning here . . . time of weaning is not one of the Ten Commandments. I am pointing out the physiological characteristics of lambs, and some of the less-recognized economic facts of keeping lambs on ewes. Weaning is not a right-or-wrong situation. Each operation makes its own decisions, for its own reasons and goals. 

I would also point out that even NOT making a decision is making a decision, because then the decision is to NOT separate the lambs, which has definite economic and nutritional consequences.

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Orphan Rearing Protocol for Large Commercial Flock

Gene Schriefer — Wisconsin, 450 Ewes — sheepfarm@charter.net  

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I've been dealing with OPP for going on 9 years now.  It's been a long and pitched battle but in the long term something I felt needed to be addressed in overall flock health. The first time we had ewes without milk it wound up getting blamed on gossypol in the cotton seed meal I was feeding late gestation/lactating ewes; the following year I went to soybean meal for protein and had even more incidence of no milk and now hard bags. In trying to figure out what was going on, I kept coming back to this OPP thingy. So tested some ewes that year, damn, here it is. OPP.  The recommendations at the time were test/cull every 6 months or orphan at birth and artificially rear. Most of the ewes were still capable of rearing twins/trips; culling the ewe early would only purchase 1/2 a replacement ewe versus spending money/labor on milk replacer. I decided that we would try the orphan route — it's usually the 3rd or 4th lamb in our prolific flock that we are orphaning — and simply try and out grow it over time. I'd prefer not to have any/many orphan lambs, but, in the short term, I'd bite the bullet and raise 'em.

The situation forced me to get very good at rearing orphans, I'd estimate the material cost of rearing an orphan lamb at $13-$15/head plus some labor. Part of the reason folks seem to think there is a lot of labor for orphans is they're raising a single animal at a time. This is the same as feeding sheep at the bunk; it takes a fraction of a second longer to fill a 5 gallon pail and feed 20 sheep as it does a single sheep. The same holds true for feeding orphans; total labor/animal decreases with size.

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Orphan Rearing Protocol for Small Purebred Flock

Judy Lewman — Minnesota, 24 Ewes — lewman@frontier.com 

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While traditional methods of orphan rearing work well for many operations, others may find that buyers of breeding stock are looking for heavier weaning weights. This is what has worked for us. Our method evolved over 9 years, during which time we artificially raised 15-20 lambs per year.

When we began orphaning lambs in 1989, no one knew that the Johne’s organism could survive pasteurization. We purchased cow colostrum from a producer recommended by our veterinarian and heat-treated it as an added precaution. Confident of that herd’s health status, I’d probably do the same again today. However, if there’s any doubt about Johne’s, commercial colostrum substitutes are available or one can forgo colostrum and use 7-way vaccine per Gene’s protocol.

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Heat Treating Colostrum 

These directions are shared courtesy of Wisconsin dairy goat guru, Judy Kapture. 

— Important Note: While this method will kill the virus causing OPP, it cannot be relied on to protect lambs from Johne’s disease! — 

A water bath is necessary so you won’t scorch the colostrum and so it won’t boil over to mess up your stove. I use a 12-qt. canning kettle with a rack in it. Put the colostrum in a proper pail and set it on the rack, then pour water into the kettle. Put it all on your stove and turn on the burner.

A good thermometer is a must. The two-inch stainless steel dial thermometer with a clip to hang on the side of the pail is easiest to use and well worth the money. It is faster to read than glass thermometers and less likely to break.

Colostrum is tricky. It must be heated to 130°F to 135°F and held in this temperature range for one full hour. The easiest way to do this is to use a thermos bottle.

Warm the colostrum up to the temperature in the water bath. Meanwhile, fill the thermos with water that is 130°F to 135°F (no hotter and no colder) to prewarm it. Keep stirring the colostrum. When it reaches the right temperature, pour the water out of the thermos and pour the colostrum in. Put the stopper on and set it aside for one hour.

When the hour is over, open the thermos and check the temperature. If you did everything right the colostrum should be 130°F or a bit warmer. Practice with plain milk first to get the routine right and to make sure your thermos is working OK. 

Do not let the colostrum get hotter than 140°F. If you do, the antibodies will be destroyed and the colostrum will probably turn into a pudding. And be sure it stays above 130°F. If it gets cooler there isn’t enough heat-treatment to kill the virus. And be sure the heating is for one full hour. A half-hour is not long enough. It has to be for an entire hour at these temperatures.

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Food Science & Lamb Bar Sanitation

 The following information is contributed by organic producer Mary Falk of LoveTree Farm in Wisconsin. 

Mary and her husband Dave are well known for their award winning “Trade Lakes” artisan sheep milk cheeses.

 

Milk in its raw form (unpasteurized) is considered to be God's perfect food (if it comes from a healthy animal). The milk contains natural bacteria that counterattack pathogens and are usually very successful at doing so as long as the milk is reasonably clean and not contaminated with dirt, debris, etc. If the raw milk sits for a length of time above refrigeration temperature (usually over 8 hours on a normal day with a temperature of approximately 70°F, less time if much warmer) these natural bacteria will continue to multiply and in doing so will eat the lactose in the milk and turn it into lactic acid. This process uses up the lactose which possible pathogens like to feed on, and it also decreases the ph balance of the milk rendering it inhospitable to pathogens. This "bacterial generation" also makes the milk easier to digest due to the increase in beneficial bacterial flora. Raw milk will not rot (go bad); it will simply sour and can still be used to make pancakes, or if allowed to continue past the "sour" stage will result in . . . yogurt. If you drain the fluid away (the whey) you will have a fresh cheese. Lambs like yogurt and fresh cheese. So what does this have to do with lamb bars? Well, a little info can be powerful good medicine . . .

Lamb milk replacer is a pasteurized product that has been processed to eliminate pathogens and contaminates. Although it is "hygienic" this also eliminates the good bacteria from protecting it against the bad bacteria. Milk replacer, like pasteurized milk, will rot instead of "turning sour". If you need to use a lamb bar in warmer weather, simply adding a tablespoon of a good quality yogurt (that has active cultures in it) to a gallon of milk replacer will inoculate the milk with the good bacteria and act as another safeguard for the lambs, plus they gain a bonus by ingesting the beneficial bacteria that aids in the digestion of the replacer and helps to maintain a healthier digestive tract, which translates to faster weight gain and healthier lambs. This does not replace the lamb's need for colostrum or meeting basic sanitation guidelines. The #1 "guardian at the gate" for a lamb is the consumption of the proper amount of colostrum which will fortify the immune system and aid in the "immunity" against the barn bugaboos. 

Over cleanliness (always scrubbing out the lamb bar with strong detergents, etc.) can lead to setting the stage for the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and could possibly leave a residue on the bucket which will kill off any beneficial bacteria. Feeding milk replacer that has maintenance antibiotics in it will also render the yogurt useless, which should give you a clue as to what it also does to the natural flora in a lamb's gut.

To properly clean out the lamb bar, first use a good warm rinse to dissolve any particles on the sides of the bucket (if you use hot water first you might actually bake the milk on), and then switch to very hot water to finish getting them out, and then flush with a very cold water rinse. You can alternate this rinse ethod by cleaning the bucket out on alternate days with a solution of apple cider vinegar and water (1/4 cup to one gallon of water), making sure to rinse it out or you will have curdled milk very quickly. 

Good health can really be this simple.

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NEWSLETTER            LIBRARY           MEMBERSHIP INFO / DIRECTORY            NEWS           LINKS            CONTACT US