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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
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June Sheep Update

Livestock Update, June 1997

Steve Umberger, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

Virginia-North Carolina Wool Sale Results. The Virginia-North Carolina Wool Sale was conducted by tele-auction on Thursday, May 8. Nine pools were sold for a weighted sale average of $0.6125 per pound. This was $0.13 per pound more than the average for last year's sale. Prices ranged from a low of $0.58 per pound to a high of $0.64 per pound. Sale results are shown in the accompanying table. Actual prices paid to producers will be less because handling and marketing deductions for each pool have not been taken into account.

Wool Pool Pounds Offered Price Per Pound
Russell-Tazewell 33,000 $0.60
Wythe-Bland-Mtn North Carolina 33,600 $0.605
Clarke Area 28,500 $0.585
Southside Virginia 18,000 $0.58
Highland 42,000 $0.625
Orange Area 32,000 $0.615
Christiansburg Area 35,000 $0.64
North Carolina State 35,000 $0.605
Rockingham 35,000 $0.635

Management For Spring-Born Lambs. Three important factors that must be considered for the summer production of spring-born lambs are internal parasite control, summer lamb performance, and the time of year lambs are marketed. Lambs born in the spring need to be treated for internal parasites every three to four weeks starting in May and continuing through October. Lambs should be approximately six weeks of age at the time of their first treatment. Failure to treat lambs on a routine basis for internal parasites results in poor lamb performance and an increased incidence of lamb death loss. Treatment dates should be marked on the calendar to reduce the risk of losing sheep from a failure to treat on time. To prevent underdosing, a representative sample of the animals being treated need to be weighed. For improved late-summer performance, lambs should be sheared by early July. In a Virginia study, average daily gain was .05 lb greater for shorn versus wooled lambs over a 90-day grazing period during the summer and early fall. In the late summer and fall, lamb gains on pasture can be improved by .15 lb per day by supplementing 1 lb barley or shelled corn per head daily. The lowest prices paid for slaughter lambs during the year occur in September and October. Rather than sell spring-born lambs in early fall, lambs should be retained and marketed at heavier weights in November and December. Leaving lambs on fall pasture, grazing aftermath hay fields, or supplementing grain on pasture during the fall are all strategies that can be used to delay the time of marketing.

Replacement Ewe Lamb Production. Ewe lambs born in March and April are excellent candidates to be used as replacement ewes in spring-lambing flocks. With proper feeding and breeding management, spring-born ewe lambs should be in production by the time they are 12 to 14 months of age. Ewes lambing first as yearlings have a higher lifetime production than ewes lambing first as two-year olds. The fastest growing twin and triplet ewe lambs should be selected for replacements. Not only is there an advantage in improved prolificacy, but twin and triplet lambs have a more moderate growth rate, which prevents excess fat deposition in the udder. Lifetime milk production is reduced in ewe lambs grown at an accelerated rate before reaching puberty. Ewe lambs should weigh approximately 60 % of their mature body weight at the time of breeding. That equates to a weight of approximately 100 lb at breeding for most commercial crossbred ewe lambs. To ensure proper breeding weights, lambs should be sheared by July 15. They should be weighed in early August and, if necessary, supplemented with .5 to 1 lb of corn or barley to improve average daily gain. Starting October 20, ewe lambs should be exposed to rams for 50 days. Marking harnesses should be used on the rams to monitor breeding activity. Sixty days after ram removal, ewe lambs should be checked for pregnancy using real-time ultrasound. All lambs diagnosed as open should be marketed. To ensure proper development, ewe lambs should receive 1 lb of grain daily from breeding through lambing. To prevent excessively large lambs at birth, the grain portion of the diet should not be increased during late gestation.

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