Interesting Tidbit on Winter Feeding…

Feeding methods cost:

A three year wintering investigation was conducted at Dickinson Research Extension Center in North Dakota to determine the effect of hay feeding methods on cow wintering cost. The average amount of hay wasted needs to be calculated when determining how much hay to provide to cows every day or when making forage purchases. A conventional method of rolling round bales out on the grounds was compared to either shredding rounds hay bales on the ground with a bale processor or feeding hay in a tapered-cone round bale feeder. The cows used in the study were in the third trimester of pregnancy and were fed for an average of 59 days during the test period. This study compared cow wintering performance, hay consumption necessary to maintain cow body condition, labor inputs, wintering cost, and hay waste, when hay was either rolled out on the ground, shredded with a bale processor on the ground, or fed in a tapered-cone round bale feeder.

Cow growth, body condition, hay intake, fat depth, and waste data were collected for three years. Cows were weighed, visually condition scored, and measured for rib fat depth using real-time ultrasound at the beginning, middle, and end of the 59-day study between the 12th and 13th rib. Hay waste was estimated manually and with GPS special mapping. Cows were fed to maintain or improve their starting body condition prior to calving.

Cows fed using the conventional method in which bales are rolled out on the ground gained less than when cows were fed with either the bale processor or tapered-cone feeder. Starting, ending and condition score change differed between years, but there were no differences due to method of feeding hay. During the first two years of the study, cows fed using the tapered-cone feeder had greater rib fat depth increase than either the roll out or bale processor methods. There was no difference among feeding methods in the third year. Hay intake to maintain body condition was greatest for the cows fed with the bale processor and lowest for the tapered-cone bale feeder. On average, when compared to the tapered-cone feeder, 5.0 and 15.3% more hay was fed per cow using the roll out and bale processor methods, respectively.

Waste contributed to the increased amount of hay required among the roll out and bale processor cow groups to maintain body condition and subsequent production. This study indicates that if you are feeding hay on the ground, add at least 15 percent to the total amount fed or purchased to compensate for waste. For example, if you normally feed 28-30 lbs per head per day, increase that amount to 33-35 pounds of hay to ensure that adequate nutrition is provided to the cow on a daily basis. If you are feeding on mud, then doubling the amount will help compensate for waste. When calculating the amount of hay needed to feed the cow herd during the winter, remember to compensate for waste.

Source: Landblom, D.G., G.P. Lardy, R. Fast, D.J. Wachenheim, and T.A. Petry. 2006. Effect of hay feeding methods on cow performance, hay waste and wintering cost. Dickinson Research Extension Center North Dakota State University 2006 Annual Report.

When Is It Safe To Graze Alfalfa Fields?

Grazing alfalfa in the late fall can be a great economical feed source. However, with these warmer fall temperatures (or lack of hard frosts) and high cattle and lamb prices can create a situation where bloat could be very costly. There are no “for sure” rules to determine when alfalfa is “safe” to graze, however below are some things produces should consider when turning out on alfalfa fields: 

1. Use caution when alfalfa plants are just beginning to show frost damage, this is when alfalfa grazing can be the most dangerous for bloats. Hard frost/freeze ruptures alfalfa cell wells, resulting in more soluble protein being immediately available for consumption by the animal. The increase in the soluble protein increases the rate of rumen fermentation, thus increasing the risk of bloat. Alfalfa generally becomes “safer” to graze after several consecutive frost in the 20’s that cause visible plant damage and drydown. 

2. Fill calves or lambs up with good quality hay prior to moving onto alfalfa fields. Not only will this help reduce animals from gorging themselves, but is also important to allow the ruminal microbial population to adapt to higher quality feeds. This is especially important if animals are coming off low quality forage (corn stalks, dry grass/range pastures). Animals should be turned out in the late morning or early afternoon, rather than early morning.  

3. Provide bloat blocks or bloat preventing additives in the water for several days before and after the start of grazing alfalfa fields. Monitor cattle several times per day when animals are turned into a new pasture.

Submitted by Sarah M. Smith

March Madness

March is the month when January planning and February preparing begins to pay off. The lambs and kids have begun to arrive by now as have the piglets. The seeds I ordered, after pouring over the seed catalogs, have also arrived and will soon all be nestled in the soil germinating. The chickens have begun to lay, so now the routine of checking on and turning eggs in the incubator has been added to the day.

     The renewing of life as spring fast approaches is a delightful time and a hectic time. The first fleeces are off the sheep. I always try to shear before the ewes lamb for two reasons. First, it makes it easier to watch over their progress toward lambing and secondly, it makes for a premium, clean fleece to work with. Now the dilemma is over which fleeces to sell raw, which to make into batts or roving and which go into my private treasury.

     March is also the month for marketing to be kicked into high gear. The annual farm letter goes out to alert our loyal customers that they need to place their orders for meat animals for this year. Web and print advertising go full scale as we are weekly adding Breeding Stock available for sale and soon the spring’s first crops of fleece and seedlings as well. It is wonderful to have the explosion of production and now is the time to share this with our customers.

      Amidst all this activity there is the list of preparations for spring planting as well as fence repairs on all the paddocks. I swear there are gremlins riding the deer who delight in breaking wires and pushing posts over in the spring thaw.

     This is the time of year when I often allow the excitement of renewal to turn into worry over all that needs to get done and finding the time to do it. This is when the planning and preparing of January and February becomes the ever growing “to do” list of spring. Having a Check List on the fridge helps me track my progress, keeping me feeling like I am gaining on the tasks at hand.

     I often remind myself that Christ said, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Keeping my focus on the tasks of today leads to enjoying the delights of spring from the first returning robin to the first tomato sprouts. This is the way to relish a farmer’s life in the midst of all the activity that spring brings.

Welcome to Solace Farm

I am blessed to be a farmer and a shepherdess who shares my life with three generations here in the Pacific Northwest.  My days are filled with caring for my family, land and animals. Over the years I have been mentored by many knowledgeable and creative individuals and feel it is only right that I share the wisdom and skills that my life has grown around. 

My goal is to pass along my experiences in the hopes of brightening your day, encouraging your creativity, and possibly saving the lost arts of living a self-sufficient life in harmony with our world. 

I will cover many topics including Farming, Cooking, Gardening and the Fiber Arts to name a just a few. 

The products of our farm will be listed in our Farm Store and I hope to eventually to be able to put together some tutorials. 

Thank you for stopping by and spending a moment or two with me.

Selenium and Lamb Growth

Increased Selenium Dosage Boosts Growth and Immunity in Lambs

In a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science, Oregon State University (OSU) researchers show that maximum selenium levels permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be too low for sheep to reach optimum growth and health.

Selenium is essential for cellular function in animals and aids development. Large selenium doses can be toxic, but too-low levels can impair growth and compromise the immune system.

“When sheep don’t grow to their potential or have weak immune systems, it can be a sign of insufficient selenium,” said Gerd Bobe, co-author of the study and an OSU professor. “Our research shows higher levels of selenium can result in healthier animals that grow bigger and that can improve returns at the marketplace for farmers and ranchers.”

A challenge is that the range between selenium deficiency and selenium toxicity can be narrow; current FDA regulations limit the amount of dietary selenium supplementation for animals grazing on selenium-scare soils to 0.7 mg per sheep per day or 3 mg per beef cattle per day.

In OSU’s experiments, pregnant ewes were given selenium doses up to five-times higher than the FDA’s allowed level – an amount of supplementation researchers determined to be not harmful to sheep. The element is carried into the bodies of offspring, helping young animals during development.

At the highest selenium doses, ewes gave birth to lambs that grew to be 4.3-pounds heavier than average after 60 days. Furthermore, survival was 15-percent higher in lambs receiving the highest amount of organic selenium supplementation. As farmers look to sell sheep at five to six months old, weight and health metrics are keys to profitability.

A new generation of OSU research is attempting to determine how much selenium and in what form is best for optimal growth and health of sheep and cattle.

Feedstuffs Slide Show

Ever wander what type of hay to feed and what other feedstuffs you can use to supplement the forage you have?

This Slide Show by Jeff Semler of University of Maryland small ruminant program gives a general over view of commonly available feedstuffs for your sheep, goats and cattle. Click on the Link below to access the slide presentation.

                                                            Feedstuffs

Finnsheep for the Farmstead

– Finnsheep mature earlier than most other breeds

– Finnsheep ewes naturally cycle out of season

– Finnsheep ewes naturally produce larger litters (2-3/litter) than competitive breeds

without flushing for increased ovulation rates.

– Quality Finnsheep possess better wool traits than other breeds known for high

reproductive abilities allowing farmers to shear a premium, saleable wool clip.

– The single coated Finnsheep fleece possesses better crimp, luster and handle than all

other short-tailed breeds, allowing a much more diverse use of the wool by a larger

variety of markets.

– The docile, friendly temperament of the Finnsheep makes them one of the easiest

sheep breeds to safely work with (children, adults and seniors).

– The Finnsheep is a polled breed, providing additional safety for handlers, preventing

the sheep from getting their horns stuck in fencing and eliminating the risk of

infections or infestations of the horn.

– The naturally short tails of the Finnsheep require no docking

– The Finnsheep crosses well with most other breeds, improving wool, temperament

and production traits in the cross-bred flock

– Scrapie resistant genetics are available within the Finnsheep breed.

– Finnsheep ewes possess excellent mothering abilities

– Finnsheep ewes receiving proper nutrition produce an abundant supply of milk for

typical Finnsheep litters (2-3 lambs/litter).

– Finnsheep meats are leaner as Finnsheep deposit fat around their organs, not

throughout their muscle tissue, providing a healthier meat for the consumer.

Lambing Tipi

We have these in our lambing jugs during January and February lambing:

Even on the coldest night it can be up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in these with two or three lambs snuggled up tight.

Materials List

*I sheet of 3/8 or ½ inch plywood

* 4 8 foot long 2×2

*75 1 ½ inch deck screws

* 2 lightweight 1 ½ inch hinges with screws

* 10 3 to 4 inch deck screws

Assembly

Always remember to put the screws in from the plywood side through to the 2×2 framing.

1. Measure the long sides of the two triangles and cut 4 pieces of 2×2 to fit that length. Screw the 2×2 in place flush with the edges of the plywood pieces.

2. Measure the length between these 2x2s along the bottom and top edge of the plywood. Cut 2×2 to fit those spaces and screw into place.

3. Place the “front sections” on the floor right side up and attach the access door at the center seam with the two hinges.

4. Hold the solid back section and the two sides sections up in place and measure the distance between the framing at the top and again at the bottom. Cut 2 pieces of 2×2 to fit each space. Center one piece that you just cut at the top and another at the bottom back and secure the extra set to your front section.

5. Secure the “Back” wall to the side walls by screwing plywood to the framing of the side walls. At this point you have a 32 sided structure. Place the front section in place and screw to the framing as you did the back. Take one long deck screw and screw into the framing at top and bottom at each joint. Your Lamb Tipi is complete.

6. You can place a safety heat lamb on the top of the tipi to provide extra warmth on those cold winters, early spring nights.  

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