Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 Junior Sheep & Goat Skillathon

The 2017 Junior Sheep & Goat Skillathon will be held Sunday, May 7 at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. The festival is always held the first full weekend in May at the Howard County  Fairgrounds in West Friendship. For the first time, there will be an admission fee for adults ($5).  Everyone under 18 enters for free. Parking remains free.

A skillathon provides youth with the opportunity to blend knowledge and skills acquired in livestock judging, demonstrations, and care and exhibition of animals into a single activity. It consists of a series of stations where youth are tested on their knowledge and abilities related to livestock. In the Sheep & Goat Skillathon, all stations pertain to sheep and goats (meat, milk, and fiber).

Fleece judging is always one of the stations.

The Junior Sheep & Goat Skillathon is open to any youth between the ages of 8 and 18. Individuals and teams (of 3 or 4) from any county, state, or province may compete. Youth compete according to their age as of January 1st of the current year. Youth ages 8 to 10 compete as juniors; youth ages 11 to 13 compete as intermediates; and youth 14 to 18 compete as seniors.

Questions pertaining to this year's skillathon should be directed to Christopher Anderson, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, Animal Science, University of Maryland Extension, Maryland 4-H Center, 8020 Greenmead Drive, College Park, MD 20740, phone: (301) 314-7187, fax: (301) 314-7146 or Register online by April 28 at

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hold the Date: All Worms, All Day

A Delmarva Small Ruminant Conference dubbed "All Worms, All Day" will be held Saturday, December 9, 2017, at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware.

The all-day program will be devoted 100 percent to internal parasites (worms). Speakers will include members of the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Control (ACSRPC). A youth program is also being planned.

Save the date now. Details will follow.

Monday, March 13, 2017

New Facebook Pages

Delaware State University and Fort Valley State University both have new Facebook pages that pertain to small ruminants.

Delaware State University's Facebook page is maintained by Dr. Kwame Matthews, the new Small Ruminant Specialist. Dr. Matthews has a split appointment between research, teaching, and extension. He received part of his education on Delmarva, before going to Tuskegee University (in Alabama) to get his doctorate. Parasites are one of his main research interests.

Fort Valley State University's Animal Science Extension Facebook Page is maintained by Dr. Niki Whitley, Animal Science Extension Specialist. Dr. Whitley works primarily with small ruminant production. She held similar positions at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and North Carolina A&T State University before returning to her home state of Georgia.

Facebook is an online social media and social networking service. It has more than 1.86 billion monthly active users as of December 31, 2016.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How to Grow Worms (or Not)

This month’s Timely Topic from the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (ACSRPC) is about planning grazing as part of your parasite control program for the year.  The article is written by Dr. Steve Hart, a Goat Extension Specialist from Langston University.

With proper planning, you can reduce worm problems and losses from worms.  Most of the management to prevent worms revolves around grazing management.

Read full article by Dr. Steve Hart

Thursday, March 2, 2017

No Maryland Wool Pool in 2017

After 59 years of operation, there will be no Maryland Wool Pool in 2017.  For many years, the wool pool has provided a market outlet for fleeces. The pool has been especially beneficial for small producers.

There have been many managers of the Maryland Wool Pool. Prices always seemed to be higher than other pools, with similar types of wool. The Maryland pool was always innovative in its approaches to marketing wool, instituting classing and baling. In fact, the Maryland Wool Pool hosted many ASI classing schools.

In its next newsletter, the Maryland Sheep Producers Association will offer alternatives for marketing wool. There are still wool pools in neighboring states:  Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Some shearers will purchase wool.

Many producers direct market their wool to hand spinners. Others add value to their wool and sell roving, top, yarn, or finished products. You can take wool to landfills. Many producers have switched to hair sheep, so they don't have to worry about shearing and marketing wool.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Winter 2017 Wild & Woolly

The Winter 2017 issue of Wild & Woolly has been published and is available in several formats. The quarterly newsletter for sheep and goat producers is published by University of Maryland Extension. This issue was written and compiled by Jeff Semler, as I am on sabbatical until June 1. Jeff is the Ag Extension Agent in Washington County, Maryland.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Upcoming Webinar: Dairy Sheep

"Is Sheep Milk Production in Your Future" is the title of an upcoming webinar on March 14, 2017, at 8 p.m. EST. The presenter is Dr. Dave Thomas, Professor of Sheep Management and Genetics from the University of Wisconsin (retired). The host is Jay Parsons from Optimal Ag. The sponsor is ASI's Let's Grow Program.

Milking sheep in Maryland
The U.S. is the leading importing of sheep milk cheeses in the world with over half of all world trade in sheep milk cheeses coming to the U.S. Some common imported 100% sheep milk cheeses are Manchego from Spain, Pecorino-Romano from Italy, and Roquefort from France.

Therefore, it would seem that there is ample opportunity for the development of a dairy sheep industry in the U.S. for the production of domestic cheeses to compete with this large influx of imported sheep milk cheeses.

However, nothing is ever as simple as it looks. This webinar will discuss the things that are necessary to produce sheep milk efficiently .

To register for the webinar, go to

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2017 Maryland Sheep Shearing School

The 2017 Maryland Sheep Breeders Association (MSBA) Sheep Shearing School will be held Friday and Saturday, April 14-15 (Friday and Saturday), 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Ridgely Thompson's farm at 1942 Uniontown Road, Westminster, MD 21157.

The school is open to anyone in Maryland, Delaware and surrounding states who wants to learn to shear sheep. Ownership of sheep or a desire to become a commercial shearer is preferred. Participation is limited to 15 people. The minimum age is 16.

The New Zealand method of shearing will be taught. Shearing machines will be provided. Blade shearing will not be taught. Instructors are Aaron Geiman and Emily Chamelin-Hickman. Aaron is an Agriscience teacher at North Carroll High School. Emily is a professional shearer.

The registration fee is $100 per person and includes a copy of ASI's Sheep Shearing Notebook, instructional DVD, and wall chart. Pre-registration is required. No registrations will be accepted after April 1.  Checks should be made payable to the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association, Inc. and mailed to Aaron Geiman at 429 Hook Road, Westminster,  Maryland  21157.

Download registration form

Monday, February 6, 2017

Regional NSIP Workshops

There will be a series of National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) workshops, "Getting Your Genetics Right: Converting Performance Records into Relevant Decision-Making Tools."  The workshops will be held March 1-11 in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The target audience is meat sheep and meat goat producers.

NSIP is a quantitative genetic evaluation program for sheep and goats. It calculates EBVs or estimated breeding values. The workshops are being conducted as part of a Northeast SARE project, "New Approaches for Improving Integrated Parasite Control Strategies for Small Ruminants in the Northeast."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Using COWPs to Improve Dewormer Efficacy

USDA ARS (Boonville, Arkansas) conducted an experiment in weaned lambs to determine the effect of treatment with two sources of copper oxide wire particles (COWP), albendazole (Valbazen®), or a combination of albendazole and COWP. There were five treatment groups:

1.  Control (no treatment)
2.  COWP (Copasture®)
3.  COWP (Ultracruz™)
4.  COWP + albendazole
5.  Albendazole (Valbazen®)

A 2 g dose of COWP was used, but only 1 g is normally recommended for lambs. Albendazole (Valbazen®) was given at double the labeled dose at 15 mg/kg of body weight (3 ml/50 lbs.). There were between 10 and 23 lambs per treatment. The flock was determined to have resistance to benzimidazoles (same class of dewormer as albendazole) by the Drenchrite® test. The population of worms was mixed (H. contortus, Trichostrongylus spp., Cooperia spp., Oesophagostomum spp.).

There was an increase in fecal egg counts in the untreated lambs and a reduction in all other groups. The greatest reduction occurred in lambs treated with both COWP and albendazole (99.1%). The reduction with COWP alone was 12% and 58%, respectively, using Copasure® and Ultracruz™.  While numerically different, there was no statisical difference between the different forms of COWP. Albendazole alone reduced fecal egg counts by 20 percent.  Similarly, albendazole alone was not statistically different from COWP alone.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

2017 Maryland Shearing School

The 2017 Maryland Shearing School will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 14-15 at Ridgely Thompson's farm in Westminster, Maryland.

The shearing school is open to anyone who wants to learn to shear sheep. The minimum age is 16. The $100 fee includes instruction, ASI sheep shearing manual, DVD, and wall chart. The registration deadline is April 1. Registration should be mailed to Aaron Geiman, 429 Hook Road, Westminster, MD  21157. Checks should be made payable to the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association.

The New Zealand method of sheep shearing will be taught. Instructors will be Aaron Geiman and Emily Chamelin-Hickman.

Download information and registration form.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lambing Record Workbooks

Mississippi State University has created Excel spreadsheets for keeping lambing records. There is a general spreadsheet for all sheep and one specifically for hair sheep. There is a different spreadsheet for hair sheep because they have different adjustment factors. In order to properly compare lambs, weaning weights need to be adjusted for sex, type of birth and rearing, and age of dam.

Some other breeds also have different adjustment factors that have been gleaned from National Sheep Improvement Program data. Goats also have different adjustment factors. Without records (and adjustment factors), you may be selecting against reproductive efficiency, if you select the biggest ewe and ram lambs.

The worksheets are Excel spreadsheets, so you'll need Excel to properly run them. Instructions are included in the Excel files.

Download lamb records worksheet
Download hair sheep worksheet

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Best Management Practices to Increase Lamb Crop

The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) has published a set of 12 Best Management Practices fact sheets. The fact sheet series is aimed at helping producers increase their lamb crop. They are written and reviewed by Sheep Specialists throughout the United States.

The fact sheets have been professionally edited and are now available for downloading from the United States Lamb Resource Center.

  1. Accelerated Lambing Cycles
  2. Breeding Ewe Lambs at 7-9 Months
  3. Cull Underperforming Ewes
  4. Disease Prevention and Treatment
  5. Manage for Seasonal Changes in Reproduction
  6. Match Reproduction to Management
  7. Optimal Nutrition
  8. Reduce Lamb Loss
  9. Select for Prolific Genetics
  10. Test for Pregnancy Status
  11. Testing Rams for Breeding Soundness
  12. Use Crossbreeding
Because production methods vary across the U.S. and among producers within the same production system, not all of these “best practices” are applicable to a particular sheep operation. However, most sheep producers should be able to identify at least three of the 12 Lamb Crop Best Practices that will help them gain efficiency and improve profitability. Most of the practices are equally applicable to goats.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Goat Kidding Record Keeping Software

Oklahoma State University has developed a goat record keeping program that helps producers keep track of goat kid births, weaning weights and adjusted weaning weights. These are the type of records that goat producers need to be maintaining in order to properly select those breeding does that are highly productive and profitable.

It is an Excel spreadsheet, so you'll need Excel to run it properly. Instructions on how to use the spreadsheet are included in the file. You can watch a recording of a webinar explaining on how to use this spreadsheet by clicking here.

Download Goat Record Keeping Software