Message from the Owner

Stan & Jean Potratz, Owners

A report from:

The World Sheep & Wool Congress

At Queretaro, Mexico in late July. Occurs every 3 years. The 2004 Congress was in Quebec. The 2010 Congress will be in Sydney, Australia (in April).

Consisted of 2 days of formal presentations followed by 4 days that included a day-long sheep nutrition seminar, visits to nearby sheep farms, a large sheep show (with carcass contests, shearing demonstrations, wool contests and breed contests), an extensive array of commercial exhibits and considerable "interpersonal interaction" (a good time!).

The number of attendees (over 700) exceeded expectations. 80% were from Mexico-attesting to the keen interest in expanding Mexico's lamb production. Attendees also came from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Spain, South Africa and S. America.

The sheep industry of Mexico has been changing rapidly over the past 15 years from fine-wool breeds to meat breeds. The economic forces behind this change have been:

  1. The drop, worldwide, in the value of wool (save for the elite fine wools which have actually gone up in value).
  2. The increasing lamb consumption in Mexico. Domestic sheep producers are keen to replace imported lamb and mutton. To do so they've imported shiploads of ewes and rams from New Zealand and Australia as well as hair sheep genetics from South Africa and other Central and South American countries.

Memorable Presentations Included:

  • Dr. J. Morgan (USA) re. the rapid buildup of sheep & goat farms/ranches with internal parasites resistant to most dewormers. It threatens the future of the pasture-based sheep/goat operations in the eastern/southern states. I hope to persuade him to address this in a future newsletter.
  • G. Fletcher (New Zealand). That 90% of their lamb crop is exported (and has been for decades) enables their producers to continuously adapt their breeds/systems toward satisfying selected EU and USA markets. As a result their lamb is consistent. The US and other nations with a wide array of varying (in size, age and type) domestic markets lacks this incentive. As a result our lamb is far less consistent.
  • Ernest Connan (S. Africa) on the development of Dorper sheep in his country and elsewhere. His operation (40 miles across in arid grasslands) contrasted with the Dorpers near Queretaro that graze only a few hours on irrigated grass and then spend the rest of the day in feedlots.
  • Ben Watts (Aust.). For several years I've been dubious re. the long term economic future of wool. Ben's talk changed my views. Elite wools have a real future. For more common wools, however, the golden years are not likely to return.

A Few Personal Notes:

  • Queretaro is a much larger and more historic place than I expected. Some serious international firms are located there.
  • The weather was cooler and less humid than I expected. It was more pleasant there than in Iowa in late July.
  • The beer was good. But the cooked cactus was easy to overlook after trying it once.
  • This was my first World Congress so I can't compare it to others. Overall it was an excellent event. The organizers deserve commendation.
  • I will try to make it to Sydney in April, 2010—but the month chosen will not make it easy as our sheep are lambing then.

by Stan Potratz

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Special Price from Premier!

FREE FiberRod Clips

When You Buy FiberRod Posts

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With every white FiberRod post (see link above) you buy, receive two SnapOn FiberRod Clip II's (link below) for free. The gray SmoothCote FiberRods are not included in this offer.

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Offer good through September 30, 2007.

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Premier VIP

Feeding Lambs

by Susan Schoenian, University of Maryland

There are many ways to feed lambs. One way is not better than the other. The appropriate feeding program is usually dictated by geographic location, production system, marketing options, and cost and availability of feed. Lambs born in the winter are often creep-fed and finished on high concentrate feeds, while lambs born later in the season are often placed on pasture with their dams. Feeding programs can utilize both pasture and grain.

For the first several weeks of life, all a lamb needs for nourishment is its mother's milk. Lambs will start to nibble on solid food soon after birth. A ewe's milk production peaks between 3 and 4 weeks of lactation. By the time lambs are 4 to 6 weeks old, they may be obtaining as much as 50 percent of their nutrient intake from sources other than their mother's milk.

Creep Feeding

Creep feeding is a means of supplying extra nutrition, usually grain, to nursing lambs. It is especially beneficial for lambs managed in intensive production systems in which early weaning is practiced. Creep feeding is advantageous for flocks which have a lot of multiple births or in flocks where milk production is a limiting factor. It is more efficient to feed the lamb directly than to feed the ewes for milk production. Creep feeding is usually of less value for lambs that will be developed on pasture in the spring and summer. Creep feeding may not be cost-effective in all production systems.

Lambs should be started on creep feed between 1 and 2 weeks of age, though they will not eat significant amounts of feed until they are three to four weeks old. Providing early access to creep feed gets lambs in the habit of eating dry feed and helps stimulate development of their rumens. It helps with early weaning.

Lambs gain access to creep feed through a "creep," which is simply an opening in the fence or gate that is large enough for the lambs to get through, but too small for the ewes to enter. It is best that creep gates have multiple openings so the lambs do not think they are trapped. Ideally, the lambs should have access to the creep area from multiple sides. A small used tire can also be used as an inexpensive creep gate. Feeders used in the creep area should be designed so that lambs cannot stand or play in them. Two inches of feeder space per lamb is recommended.

The creep area should be placed in a high traffic area where lambs will naturally find their way to it. A light in the creep area will help to attract lambs. A sunny spot in the barn is an ideal place to place the creep. In addition to providing creep feed, the creep area is a place for lambs to loiter and sleep. It should be kept dry and well-bedded. Two square feet of space per lamb is recommended for the creep area. Water should be available in the creep area, as well as high quality hay. Creep feeders can also be set up on pasture.

The creep ration does not need to be complex or expensive. At a young age lambs prefer feeds that are finely ground and have a small particle size. Feeds that have high palatability for lambs include soybean meal, ground corn, and alfalfa hay. Some producers start lambs out on soybean meal. It is expensive, but the lambs do not eat much at an early age. Crumbled or textured rations are consumed better than pelleted creep feeds. The feed should be fresh and dry and should never be allowed to run out.

Because the growth of young lambs is mostly lean muscle (protein) rather than fat, protein supply is critical. The creep ration should contain 18 to 20 percent crude protein. The protein in creep feed should be all natural; urea should not be fed to young lambs. As lambs get older, they prefer coarser diets and whole grains. Older lambs deposit more fat, thus their requirement for protein diminishes.

The creep feed should contain a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio to prevent urinary calculi (kidney stones) in male lambs. Inclusion of 1% feed grade limestone will also help to prevent urinary calculi. The creep feed should contain a coccidiostat to prevent coccidiosis. Deccox® (decoquinate) and Bovatec® (lasalocid) are both FDA-approved as coccidiostats for lambs. Rumensin® (monensin) is another coccidiostat, but it is not FDA-approved for lambs. Lambs should be vaccinated with Clostridium perfringins C & D to prevent overeating disease prior to weaning.

Feeding Lambs From Weaning to Market

Feed Lot Finishing of Lambs

Creep-fed lambs are commonly weaned early (< 90 days) and placed on feed lot diets for finishing. Pasture-reared lambs must be brought gradually from a high roughage-low concentrate diet to a high concentrate-low roughage diet. This transition should take place over several weeks.

When finishing lambs on high grain diets, acidiosis, enterotoxemia & urinary calculi can be potential problems. Acidosis can be prevented by including at least 10% roughage in the diet, by feeding a rumen buffer (e.g. sodium bicarbonate) and by avoiding sudden changes in the type or amount of ration fed. Urinary calculi can be prevented by providing a Ca:P ratio of at last 2:1, having a salt/mineral mix available free choice, and by feeding an urine acidifier like ammonium chloride. Getting lambs to drink plenty of water will also help to prevent urinary calculi.

Corn and soybean meal commonly form the basis of these feed lot diets. However, other grains and protein sources can replace all or part of the corn and soybean meal in the diet, depending upon availability and cost. The energy value of barley and grain sorghum (milo) relative to corn is 90 percent. Both can replace 100 percent of the corn in the diet. Due to its higher fiber content, oats have only 80 percent of the energy value of corn. Wheat is equal to corn, but should not replace more than 50 percent of the corn or barley in the diet.

Alternative sources of protein include cottonseed meal and peanut meal. Urea (the end product of nitrogen metabolism) has a crude protein equivalent of 281 percent and can supply up to one-third of the nitrogen in the diet (of older lambs). To determine the pounds of nitrogen in the diet, you multiply the total pounds of crude protein in the diet by 16 percent.

The decision to use other feeds should be based on their availability and cost relative to corn and soybean meal. To determine if other feeds are a better value than corn and/or soybean meal, comparisons must be based on the cost per unit of nutrient (protein and energy). Differences in weight and nutrient content need to be factored into these calculations.

Pasture Finishing of Lambs

Though pasture-fed lambs will usually not grow as fast as lambs fed concentrate diets, pasture rearing is often more economical. It is a more natural feed and environment for lambs. There seems to be a growing consumer demand for grass-fed animal products, due to the perceived health benefits. Grass-fed meat and milk tends to be lower in fat and higher in conjegated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, and vitamin E than the meat and milk from grain-fed livestock. Regardless of diet, lamb is one of the best sources of CLA.

Excellent pasture and grazing management is required to finish lambs on pasture. Lamb growth rate can vary greatly, depending upon the type and quality of pasture being grazed. As pasture quality declines, lamb gains decline. Rotational grazing systems which result in lambs consuming plants in a vegetative state, when they are the most nutritious and palatable, will produce the best pasture gains. Pastures containing legumes usually produce higher gains than those containing grass alone. The inclusion of warm season grasses into the pasture system may improve summer gains, as cool season grasses don't grow much during the summer months. Legumes will also improve summer growth of pastures.

Lambs grazing "novel endophyte" (MaxQ) or non-toxic endophyte strains of tall fescue will gain better than those grazing infected fescue varieties. The initial grazing trials with MaxQ tall fescue were done with lambs. Lambs grazing Max Q or endophyte-free tall fescue gained 0.37 lbs. per day vs. lambs grazing endophyte-infected fall fescue, which gained only 0.22 lbs. per day.

Over a typical May to September grazing season, lambs will gain about one-third of a pound per day on traditional cool season pastures (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland data).

Internal Parasites

Internal parasites (gastro-intestinal worms) can have a significant effect on the health and performance of grazing lambs. Traditional rotational and intensive grazing systems could exacerbate internal parasite problems, if pasture rest periods are not sufficient. In the past, it was advocated that grazing lambs be dewormed every three to four weeks during the grazing season. This practice has contributed to the widespread emergence of drug-resistance worms, making parasite control with anthelmintics more difficult and costly. Effective internal parasite control requires an integrated approach that combines appropriate pasture and animal management strategies with selective and/or targeted use of anthelmintics. Some forages have anthelmintic-like activity (e.g. sericea lespedeza, birdsfoot trefoil, and chicory) and can be incorporated into a pasture and grazing program.

While coccidiosis is generally considered to be more of a problem with confined lambs, outbreaks can occur on pasture, especially with intensive grazing programs, where more lambs are concentrated on a smaller land area. In fact, any place where livestock congregate can be a potential source of infection: laneways, sheltering areas, watering areas, feeding areas. A coccidiostat (Bovatec® or Deccox®) in the mineral mix will help to prevent outbreaks of coccidiosis.

Click here to view the complete article.

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Premier Tip

Fence & Energizer Trouble Shooting

Do The Following Checks First…

  1. Determine if the fault is with the fence or the energizer. To test the energizer, disconnect the fence from the energizer fence terminal, then with your fence tester measure the voltage across the fence and ground terminals. It should measure anywhere from 5000-7000 volts. If the measurement is less than that (with the fence disconnected) you may have a problem with the energizer system. If the energizer tests between 5000 & 7000v, and then when you test your fence & voltage on the fence is low, you then have a problem on the fence.
  2. If the energizer is at fault and its a 110 volt energizer, check the 110 volt outlet.
  3. If the energizer is at fault and its a battery unit, then you need to further determine if it is the battery that is problematic or the energizer itself.
  4. If the fence is at fault, then you must find the fault(s) and fix them. Start the process by breaking the fence down into sections or by testing wire by wire. Start at the beginning of the fence and add sections or wires to the system until you find the problem(s). A fence tester is a must have tool to have on hand. A fault finder is also nice as it will tell you the direction of the fault.

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Premier Employee Spotlight

Carroll Hansen

The August employee of the month is Carroll Hansen of Wayland, IA. Having worked at Premier for over 11 years in our repair department, Carroll says, "what he likes best is the diversity of the job. Every project and repair holds new challenges and solutions while at the same time helping a customer get through a problem." What he likes best about Premier is "being with a company that is constantly exploring and testing new products, finding solutions to old problems and focusing to stay on the cutting edge."

Carroll has farmed all of his life in both California and Iowa. He grew up in northern California on a diversified irrigated row crop and livestock farm. While Carroll was in college the farm switched over to growing almonds and when he returned he spent 20 years perfecting the art of tending to almond trees. Wanting to return back to where his family was from, Carroll came to Iowa in 1994 to farm. He raised up to a 1000 fat hogs per year but now has semi-retired and raises 500 hogs a year. He and his wife Terri have been married for 30 years, have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. He enjoys hunting, fishing, restoring his old Massey Harris 44 tractor and doing maintenance around his farm. He is a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Farm Bureau.

Carroll is very detailed and likes his tools in all of their appropriate places. Carroll can fix just about anything.

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Greek Lamb Burgers


3 tomatoes/raw, peeled & cut into wedges
1 cucumber, peeled & sliced
2 Tbsps. lime juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
3 Tbsps. olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
2 tsps. mint
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbled
8 Kalamata or black olives, pitted and finely chopped
4 pita breads, cut in half
1 cup plain lowfat yogurt

Combine tomatoes & cucumbers in a salad bowl. Combine next 4 ingredients and salt and pepper to taste in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. Cover and set aside. Turn on broiler. Combine lamb and next 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Gently form into 1 inch thick patties. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Broil burgers 4-5 minutes per side or until lamb is slightly pink inside. Serve burgers in pita bread pockets with tomato and cucumber mixture. Top with a dollop of yogurt.

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