Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cold Weather Shepherding tips

It’s December which means winter—in theory—will be here soon. Currently it is 66° in Washington, IA but that could change to 10° in an instant (after all, it is Iowa weather). Here are a few tips for dealing with the highly anticipated cold weather.

  • Gordon Shelangoski (Premier product consultant and shepherd) utilizes molasses tubs as a supplement to his stockpiled forage. The added energy provides what the late season forage can't. Gordon can graze his ewes longer without having to provide stored feed. Purchasing a few tubs pencils out to being more cost efficient for Gordon than buying in hay. If you choose to try molasses tubs, make sure they are formulated for sheep specifically. Non-sheep specific tubs have high copper levels which leads to copper toxicity in sheep. 
  • Make sure the water supply is winter ready. Add tank heaters and know your protocol for frozen tanks and hydrants. Water is especially important during late gestation and lactation.
  • If you buy-in feed, make sure it is either on your farm or at least spoken for. Searching for hay in mid-winter is not going to be the most cost effective means of procuring feed.
  • Machinery needs to be in good repair and ready to run in the winter. If you run a diesel, make sure to have winter blended fuel or at least a bottle of anti-gel additive. 
  • Temporary fencing that will not be used during the winter needs to be picked up and stored. This reduces the chances of it being damaged by snow, ice and animals.
  • Fences that will be in use throughout the winter need to be functional. Go through and remove overgrowth/fallen limbs that may reduce the strength of the pulse going through the netting. If you have a fence that can be modified into pos/neg, do so. This will allow the fence to function better with deep snow.
  • If your winter plans involve lambing, make sure the lambing barn/area is cleaned and ready to handle sheep. Set up lambing jugs and pens ahead of time. 
  • Make sure your lambing kit is ready. You do not want to be out of teats for bucket teat units when you have orphan lambs. Being prepared ahead of time saves a trip to town when you need to be treating a ewe or lamb.