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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
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Sheep Update

Livestock Update, October 2003

Scott P. Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist- Sheep, VA Tech

Virginia Bred Ewe Sale to be hosted October 25
The Virginia Bred Ewe Sale will be held at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, VA on Saturday, October 25, 2003. Suffolk, Dorset, Hampshire, and crossbred yearling ewes and ewe lambs will be offered. Pregnancy diagnosis using ultrasound will be conducted prior to the sale. For more information contact Corey Childs, 229 Walnut Street, Berryville, VA, 22611, phone (540) 955-4663.

Fall Lamb Marketing Tips
Sheep producers throughout the nation have enjoyed strong prices beginning last winter and continuing through 2003. Since January, lamb prices have remained $15-25 cwt. above those for the same time last year. Producers have benefited from stable prices through June, with a gradual decline since that time. Market forces responsible for keeping lamb prices strong are likely to remain intact. These factors include continued reduction in total sheep numbers nationally partially resulting from lingering effects of widespread drought, and a strengthened U.S. dollar making imports more expensive.

Management strategies that allow for marketing of feeder and slaughter lambs in mid to late fall historically have been advantageous compared to early fall marketing dates. Depending on current weight and condition, many spring-born lambs will fit the October ethnic market (targeted at Ramadan which begins October 26). These lambs need to be managed appropriately, so that they fit the weight and condition specifications of the intended market. Generally, providing supplemental grain to lambs coming off grass is an economically sound decision prior to marketing. This remains true for the ethnic market, provided the lambs do not get excessively heavy or fat.

Results of 2003 Virginia Performance Tested Ram Lamb Sale
The 28th Annual Virginia Performance Tested Ram Lamb Sale was held at the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station near Steeles Tavern on Saturday, August 23. A total of 40 rams sold for an average price of $349. Top-selling ram was a fall Dorset consigned by Wade Brothers from Greenville, VA and sold for $725. Meadows Suffolks of Buchanan, VA sold a Suffolk ram for $710 to top the breed. Rams sold to buyers in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Sale results by breed were as follows:

  Sale Average
7 Fall Dorsets $482
4 Winter Dorsets $361
2 Dorpers $550
2 Hampshires $310
4 Fall Suffolks $246
21 Winter Suffolks $307
40 Total Rams $349

The Virginia Ram Lamb Performance Test is sponsored by the Virginia Sheep Producer's Association.

Virginia Commercial Ewe Lamb Development Program Underway
The Virginia commercial ewe lamb development and marketing program recently began its fourth year. The purpose of the program is to provide a source of quality replacement ewes with documented health, management, and genetics for Virginia commercial flocks. The program is being conducted at the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station, located at the Virginia Tech Shenandoah Valley Agriculture Research and Extension Center located near Steeles Tavern. A total of 79 commercial crossbred ewe lambs (born January through April, 2003) were delivered to the station on September 9. Ewe lambs are being developed on grass with supplemental grain mix provided to optimize growth and reproductive performance during the development program. Ewes have been allocated to breeding groups based on age, weight, and breed. Ewes will be mated to purebred rams, which have all been evaluated on the 2002 Virginia Performance Ram Lamb Test. Two Suffolk and one fall Dorset rams will be utilized as service sires, with approximately the same number of ewes mated to each ram breed. Rams will be placed with the ewes October through mid-December. Breeding dates will be recorded on all ewes, and pregnancy status will be determined in late December via ultrasound. Ewes will be sold in conjunction with the annual VA-NC Shepherd's Symposium on Saturday, January 10, 2004 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, VA. Bred ewes will be sold in groups of 2-5 head, based on genetics and expected lambing date. For more information, contact Scott Greiner at 540-231-9163.

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