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Livestock Update, September 2007

Dr. Scott Greiner Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

2007 Virginia Performance Tested Ram Lamb Sale Results

The 32nd Annual Virginia Performance Tested Ram Lamb Sale was held at the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station near Steeles Tavern on Saturday, August 25.  A total of 27 rams sold for an average price of $302.  Top-selling ram was a Suffolk consigned by Sarah Swortzel of Greenville, VA which sold for $480.  Rams sold to buyers in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  Sale results by breed were as follows:


Sale Average

5 Fall Dorsets


4 Winter Dorsets


1 Fall Katahdin


3 Winter Katahdins


14 Suffolks


27 Total Rams


The Virginia Ram Lamb Performance Test is sponsored by the Virginia Sheep Producer’s Association.  Information on the 2008 test and sale may be attained from Scott Greiner, Extension Sheep Specialist, Virginia Tech, phone 540-231-9163 or email

Virginia Fall Bred Ewe Sale will be October 27
The 2007 Virginia Sheep Producer’s Association Fall Bred Ewe Sale will be held Saturday, October 27 at 1:00 PM at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg.  Yearling ewes and ewe lambs, along with mature ewes will be sold.  All yearling and mature ewes will be sold as guaranteed pregnant.  Breeds offered will include Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, and crossbreds including wether dams.  For a sale catalog or more information contact Corey Childs at 540-955-4633.

Fall Lamb Management
For many late winter and spring-lambing flocks, a substantial portion of lamb gain typically comes from grass. This year’s widespread drought has resulted in lower lamb performance, with little or no weight gain for an extended period of time.  Increased parasite loads also contribute to the static performance of grazing lambs during the summer months.  In these instances, placing the lambs on feed is advantageous to the sheep enterprise by allowing for more effective use of forage resources by the ewe flock and enhancing the performance of the lamb crop. Additionally, supplemental energy will provide needed body condition for lambs coming off grass, and provide body condition needed for optimum market acceptance.

Lamb feeding need not be complicated nor expensive. Growing and finishing lambs on whole grain rations has advantages of promoting feed efficiency and rate of gain, decreases days on feed, and results in lower costs of gain. The principle behind whole grain diets is to utilize the grain as a "built in roughage factor." The preference of very young lambs for finely ground diets gradually switches to feeds with increased particle size as the lambs grow older, and by weaning they should be able to consume whole grains. The simplest and usually the most economical ration during this period will consist of whole corn (or barley) and a commercially available pelleted protein supplement. These protein supplements normally contain 36% to 40% crude protein, and are designed mixed with whole grain or barley for a complete ration. An added benefit to many of these supplements is that they may contain Bovatec, which aids in the prevention of coccidiosis and also promotes weight gain and feed efficiency. These diets can be readily mixed to create total rations ranging in protein from 11% to 16% (see table for requirements). Feeding grain in the whole form provides adequate "scratch factor" as a roughage source. To avoid excess feed costs, it is important not to overfeed protein. Regardless of the source, protein will be more expensive than energy. Altering the protein content of the ration to match the weight and performance level of the lambs will keep feed costs down and add to the profitability of the feeding program.

There are several factors to consider if diets for growing/finishing lambs are to put together from feedstuffs available on the farm, or purchased. First, maintain a proper calcium to phosphorus ratio of at least 2:1. Ratios below 2:1 may lead to problems with urinary calculi. Providing fresh, clean water is also critical. Ammonium chloride added at the rate of 10-15 lb. per ton, or .5% will also aid in the prevention of urinary calculi. Secondly, energy grains such as corn and barley are low in calcium and high in phosphorus. Therefore, limestone or another calcium source will need to be added to ensure adequate calcium intake and proper Ca to P ratio. Thirdly, intake of hay should be kept to a minimum. If some hay is offered, it should be lower quality and long stem. Feeding high quality hay is not economical, as it is an expensive source of energy and inefficient use of protein. The final ration should be formulated to contain approximately 78% TDN.

There are several key management considerations when placing lambs on feed after coming off pasture. To avoid digestive disturbance and enterotoxemia, lambs need to be adjusted to a grain ration gradually. Start by feeding the lambs .25 lb. of grain per day. This amount can be adjusted up slowly over a two week period based on how the lambs are cleaning up their grain. It is important that lambs be vaccinated for enterotoxemia properly during this period.

Table 1. Protein concentration (%) of rations for lambs of varying weights and performance levelsa


Average Daily Gain




Lamb Wt.

























a From Morrical in Proceedings 13th Annual Iowa Sheep Sym., 1991.

There are some important holidays approaching which typically result in strong lamb prices, due to an increase in demand associated with these holidays.  The Islamic holiday of Ramadan begins on September 12 and lasts through October 12 with the celebration of Eid al Fitr (Ramadan ends).  Later in the year, Eid ul Adha occurs on December 20.  An integrated marketing and management strategy that targets the strong demand for lambs during these times is warranted.


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