Lambs: Weaning, Scrapie tags, and worming

This past weekend I headed out to the ranch to help wean lambs. Weaning just means that they have become old enough and/or weigh enough to be able to flourish on their own, so they are separated from their mothers. For lambs, our rule of thumb is 60 days or 60 pounds, meaning they must be at least 60 days old to be weaned or weigh at least 60 pounds.

The ewes (the mamas) can start getting thin at this stage because these bigger lambs are still nursing and the ewes have a hard time maintaining their body weight and condition with these big lambs nursing them. The lambs at this age and stage are also eating hay and can graze, so it is time for them to be weaned. Plus, in a few short weeks excited 4-H members will come and select the lambs they will raise and show this year.

We sorted the lambs into two pens, one pen held lambs that met the 60/60 requirements and the other pen held the lambs that still need more time. Twenty-nine lambs were sorted into our wean pen and everyone else was let out to go eat their morning hay.

Luckily we started early enough in the morning the ground was still frozen and we could get the horse trailer backed up to the shed. We have gotten so much moisture in the last month that there is mud that is at least ankle deep. Once the horse trailer was in place we let the lambs out of their pen and they ran right to the trailer and loaded (yay for this going so well).

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Kelsey helping make sure the lambs stay put

Now since we had them in a confined space (i.e. the horse trailer) we wormed them (they can get internal parasites from drinking out of running water sources, worming helps keep them healthy) and they got their Scrapie tags. Scrapie (pronounced scrape – e) is a fatal, degenerative disease of the central nervous system of sheep and goats, of which there is no cure. Other animal species can get a form of this prion misfolding disease too. In cattle it is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “Mad Cow Disease”), in people it is variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has a national scrapie eradication program, and each state department of agriculture has a premise identification program. In the premises ID program, each animal rancher/farmer verifies what their address is and what species they raise. Before sheep (or goats) can leave where they were born they must be tagged with one of these tags, if there ever was a Scrapie outbreak, the animal could be traced back to its home ranch/farm. Fun fact – it is illegal to remove the Scrapie tag before an animal is harvested. That tag must remain in the animal’s ear for its entire life.

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Scrapie tags

Once each lamb had been wormed and tagged with the Scrapie tag, the lambs were taken to their new home. A pen near where they had always been. They will stay in this pen until they go to a new home with the 4-H members, until any replacement ewes are big and mature enough to rejoin the flock, or they are harvested for meat. In this pen they have access to alfalfa hay, grain, and fresh clean water, as well as two sheds.

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The weaned lambs settling into their new home

It usually takes a couple of days for the lambs and ewes to recover from weaning. The lambs learn how to eat hay and grain out of feeders and the ewes have a chance to start putting some weight back on that they may have lost while nursing. If the ewes get too thin they have a hard time cycling and breeding again.

Weaning lambs is a lot of work that requires all of us to get it done. But it is also rewarding because you can really see how well the lambs are doing and have pride in knowing that under your care they will reach their full potential.

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The lamb weaning and working crew

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Reflecting on a year in Nevada…

Happy 2017! I cannot believe how quickly 2016 came and went. So many people talked about what a terrible year it was. I thought it was a pretty great year. I thought I would take a moment to reflect on some of the 2016 adventures.

In December 2015 I announced in The Book of Life I had accepted a job with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and would be moving back home closer to my family.

We had some time in-between leaving Nebraska and when my new job started, so naturally we stayed with my parents. We were involved daily with the chores and animals on the ranch. And boy did it get cold, caring for baby lambs in freezing temperatures was certainly a priority.

The weather actually ended up delaying our moving truck, and needless to say we had to camp out in our apartment for about a week until our stuff arrived. It was kind of awkward to come home and night and not have anything (nothing) to sit on. But we survived and spent the next months unpacking…

We spent much of January and February settling into a new normal. The Hubs looked for work, and was actually able to get employment with the same security company he was with in Nebraska. We went to the ranch when weather permitted and enjoyed being able to help out my folks.

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Because who doesn’t need a sheep selfie?

After almost six years to the date, the Hubs became an American citizen. Whew what a process that was. If it wasn’t for a fantastic immigration lawyer (and money, and time) we could not have done it. Hindsight is always something, but we put together a list of 10 immigration tips in case you ever need to go through the process yourself (or know someone who is), as knowing some of these things upfront would have been helpful.

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Becoming an American!

I became an aunt! My Mom and I made several trips to Wyoming to help my sister get ready for his birth, then to meet the little guy, then to spoil and cuddle him. He is seriously the most adorable kid ever… ok, I am probably biased, but he is pretty great, and cute. The whole family was able to spend Labor Day (for the folks’ 40th wedding anniversary) and Christmas together. We are eagerly anticipating the big cake smash birthday coming up.

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He was so little here…

In March, we headed south and took advantage of the Death Valley Super Bloom. Neither of us had ever been there, but enjoyed the few days we had. Not only was it an excellent place to visit, but one we certainly will return to. Next time we go, we decided we would camp in the park instead of driving to the motel in a nearby town. We would also watch all of the sunrises and sunsets, as the ones we saw were fantastic. And we probably wouldn’t try to see every.single.thing in the park in one visit.

Death AValley Super Bloom

If you know anything about me from social media, you know I like to cook (and eat). I experimented a lot with clay pot cooking, and tried cornish game hens, meatloaf, and chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

In July my office hosted the first-ever youth summer day camp. We spent a week highlighting some of the projects youth can do in 4-H and explored the great outdoors. We had so much fun that we will continue this camp and talked about adding a winter one as well.

Living in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range gave us the chance to hike, swim, and explore areas near us. We didn’t make near enough time to enjoy as much scenic beauty and we wanted, but have been building our 2017 list of places to visit.

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Lake Tahoe

In the fall I had a ton of travel. I was fortunate enough to attend meetings and conferences where I could catch up with friends, as well as make new friends and learn new skills from events like BloggyCon and Top of the Class. I also was able to squeeze in a couple of fun trips too.

We bought a house! Apartment living was not for us. So we bit the bullet and bought our first home. Surprisingly, the process went much, much better in real life than I had imagined it would go. Yes, it seems we ended 2016 much the same way we started 2016, packing and moving. And let me just say that going through a move twice in one year is way too much. Two months later I am finally at the stage where I am hanging stuff on the walls and decorating.

2016 was a year of change and challenge, new beginnings, exploration, and family. I saw my family more in the past year than I had in the last six years. It was great being able to go 4-wheeling in the mountains, celebrate life events and holidays, and just hang out. On the work front, getting adjust to a completely new and different system has taken time, but we are once again full-staffed and everyone has learned their roles and responsibilities. I look forward to what 2017 will bring, and wish you all the best.


Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

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Care of baby lambs in freezing temperatures

Much of the U.S. has experienced some unusual and aggressive weather in the past week. At my family’s ranch we got about 5 inches of snow, followed by freezing temperatures. It has been a few years since temperatures have dipped down around zero!

 When it gets that cold, it can be hard on everything – people, animals, vehicles, equipment, etc. Drastic changes in weather and barometric pressure can also mean more baby animals may be born. Sure enough, my Mom’s ewes started lambing again.

To ensure both mamas and babies remain healthy and warm during these extreme temperatures we do several things. First, the sheep shed receives fresh straw regularly to give all of the ewes and lambs a dry, warm place to lay.

 Next, when a ewe starts lambing she is given a separate pen with plenty of straw and a heat lamp for the lambs.  In this pen she also receives hay and water regularly to ensure she is producing enough milk for her lamb(s). In these pens we can also keep a close eye on them to make sure everyone is healthy.

 The ewe and lamb(s) will stay in these pens until the lamb(s) are strong and healthy enough to be able to handle the elements or until the weather becomes a little more baby animal friendly. The ewe will also put off heat with her thick wool coat.

 During extreme cold weather events, if animals do not receive enough energy from their feed they can loose body condition, lactation may decrease, and they may struggle to stay warm and be comfortable. We ensure that all of the animals in our care continue to have access to plenty of fresh clean water, but also plenty (and extra) of feed.

Luckily this extreme cold spell only lasted about 3 days, and our morning temperatures for now are back in the low 20s. Despite the increase in the morning temperature, the care of the animals remains a top priority for us and other livestock ranchers and farmers around the country.

Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
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Cows: What do cows involved in research look like?

Recently, Karl, the cow/calf herd manager at the research station where I am based, asked if I wanted to go look at the calves. I jumped on the opportunity, as it had been a few months since I had seen them, I also grabbed an office support staff member who missed the baby calf viewing.

Karl has this herd split into two groups, as they are easier to manage. Karl also explained that these cows have two roles, they are part research herd and part teaching herd.

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The calves are looking great – almost time for weaning.

As part of the physiology research herd, these cows may have blood drawn to look at progesterone levels, they may have different breeding synchronization methods, or they may be fed different feed rations to see how the fetus responds, and later how that calf performs in life.

Fun fact: cows that experience stress (i.e. diet limitations) while pregnant, have calves that generally do not perform as well as calves born to cows with minimal stress. By using cows as a model, we now know the same holds true for humans! To read more about cattle fetal programming, visit here, here, and here. Did you know cattle also have a 9 month gestation period just like humans?

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The cows and calves are all fleshy and look great!

As part of the teaching herd, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) graduate students learn how to collect blood, help with various cattle tasks as needed, and may assist with surgeries if and when necessary. It is a very hands-on, real world approach.

ALL animals involved in research and the people who work directly with them, must be current on their IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) training, and all facilities are inspected twice a year to ensure they are safe for both animal and human. Read more about IACUC here.

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Cow/calf pairs… (Left): A big bull calf is nursing his mother. (Right): A mama cow is checking out the denim piece over the calf’s eye. The calf got pinkeye. Once the eye has been treated the patch helps protect it from sun, dirt, flies, or other irritants. The patch will naturally fall off and is hopefully healed under the patch.

As you can see, these research cows are very healthy, have plentiful amounts of grass in their pastures, and appear to be happy. Karl and the UNL students ensure they are well taken care of daily! The research cows look just like any other cow that you may see in pastures! The cows also play a role in making advancements in human health and medicine, how cool is that!?

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Heat Stress: Something to sweat about

In Eastern Nebraska, our temperatures have jumped the last few days, the nights aren’t cooling down, there is high humidity, and no wind. Unfortunately, this combination can be dangerous for livestock. At UNL, our beef team has been trying to push out resources and information to beef farmers and ranchers to help them prepare for these high heat events.

Last year I did a blog post on heat stress. At the bottom of the post are more resources on how to help dairy animals, feedlot animals, and youth exhibiting at livestock shows. These high heat events are dangerous for both humans and animals.

heat stress

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Avian Influenza-Nebraska Update

Avian Influenza has been a catastrophic event for the poultry industry across the U.S. Jenny has summarized the message we are getting in Nebraska, but I think it is applicable to poultry farmers and consumers everywhere.

JenREESources's Extension Blog

Dr. Sheila Purdum, Nebraska Extension Poultry Specialist asked us to share the following

Photo courtesy Nebraska Extension Poultry page: https://animalscience.unl.edu/anscextensionpoultry Photo courtesy Nebraska Extension Poultry website.

information about avian influenza.  Unfortunately, Nebraska has HPAI H5N2 in a commercial flock of laying hens in Dixon County. This is the same virus that has been infecting turkeys in MN and WI and laying hens in the state of IA for the past 3 months. It is a deadly flu virus to poultry, killing as many as 90% of the flock within 3 days of the first symptoms. The major source of the virus has been migrating waterfowl, but it is believed to be airborne now traveling on numerous vectors to include people’s clothing, vehicles and other animals that may have come into contact with migrating waterfowl excrement, dust, etc.

Biosecurity:

The good news is that Biosecurity measures such as disinfecting all equipment coming into contact with your bird’s environment…

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Herbie Husker, a rumen, and a fistula… Wordless Wednesday

Herbie Husker visits the UNL Mobile Beef Lab (read more about the lab and the fistula here).

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Herbie Husker visits the UNL Mobile Beef Lab team — even suiting up and putting his arm into “Rudy’s” rumen!

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)