Weaning, Stress and a Chance to Make a Difference for Sheep and Goats
By Carol Sanders
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Midsummer is often a time of change for small lambs, kids and their producers. Lambs and kids born in the spring are about to be weaned, an often noisy and stressful time for them and their producers, said Dr. David Fernandez, livestock specialist with the Cooperative Extension Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Although much progress has been made in reducing weaning stress in calves using fenceline weaning, this may not be the case with lambs and kids, said Dr. Fernandez. With fenceline weaning, calves are separated from their dams by a fence; they can still see, hear and even contact their dams. Research has shown that calves experience much less stress when weaned this way.
Reducing stress is critical to the health, growth and well-being of farm animals. Stressed kids and lambs are especially susceptible to coccidiosis, which can cause long term damage to the digestive tract, resulting in poor growth. Many kids and lambs die of dehydration and blood loss due to this disease, he said.
Very little data exists on fenceline weaning and small ruminants. Lambs do not appear to experience more or less stress when fenceline weaned compared to traditional weaning. No studies have been done with goat kids.
Weaning can also be stressful to does and ewes, said Dr. Fernandez. Milk is still being produced in the udder, and it can become swollen and tender. Some researchers recommend transferring dams to lower quality pastures or putting them on a drylot for a couple of days with low quality hay. A few also recommend withholding water for 24 hours. Both help to slow or stop milk production and reduce stress. But, water should not be withheld during exceptionally hot weather, cautions Dr. Fernandez.
With so very little research available on sheep or goats and fenceline weaning, sheep and goat producers have a chance to make a difference. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Southern SARE) will issue its annual call for proposals for Producer Grants in September (http://www.southernsare.org/Grants/Types-of-Grants/Producer-Grants).
Southern SARE is part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to increase knowledge about sustainable agriculture practices. Producer grants are for producers to try out new and innovative ideas on their farms. Once the project is complete, Southern SARE expects producers to share the information with other farmers as well as submit a report so SARE can share results with farmers and researchers across the country.
“Grant proposals are due in November. If your project is selected, funds will be available in March 2016,” said Dr. Fernandez.
Run ideas past an experienced grant writer. University agriculture specialists or county Extension agents can help, he said. Individuals are eligible for up to $10,000. Groups of farmers and farmer organizations can receive up to $15,000. Projects can last up to two years.
For more information on this or other livestock questions, contact Dr. Fernandez at
(870) 575-7214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Program offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service