September 14-15, 2018
UCCE - Auburn
11477 E Avenue, Auburn, California 95603
This two-day, hands-on grazing school will provide participants with practical, field-based experience in applying the principles of managed grazing on rangeland, brushland and irrigated pasture. Working in teams, participants will learn to estimate carrying capacity and graze periods, develop grazing plans and monitoring systems, and create drought and predator protection plans.
Day 1 (Friday, September 14 - 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
- Principles of Managed Grazing
- Sheep Husbandry Basics (electric fence, carrying capacity, stockmanship, sheep husbandry, etc.)
- Setting up a 24-hour Graze (field activity)
- Goat Husbandry Basics)
- Matching Production Calendars to Forage Calendars
- Controlling Internal Parasites
- Dinner and Panel Discussion
Day 2 (Saturday, September 15 - 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.)
- Sheep and Goat Nutrition
- Pasture and Range Ecology (field activity)
- Grazing Planning and Monitoring
- Pasture Walk and Assessment
- Targeted Grazing
- Livestock Protection Tools
Cost: $200 (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner on Day 1; breakfast and lunch on Day 2). Also includes all course materials. No refunds - your payment guarantees your space.
Hotels are available in Auburn.
For more information:
In "A Livestock Guardian Dog by Any Other Name: Similar Response to Wolves Across Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds," authors Dan Kinka of Utah State University and Julie Young of the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center compare several new (to the United States) breeds of LGDs with the typical American "whitedog" (Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Anatolian, Maremma, and crosses of these breeds). Some producers believe that because the American whitedog breeds were initially selected to protect small ruminants from coyotes, they may not be well suited to deterring larger predators (especially gray wolves and grizzly bears). As part of the study, Kinka and Young imported kangals from Turkey, karakachans from Bulgaria, and cao de gado transmontanos from Portugal. These breeds were selected because they were typically used in their home countries to protect livestock from wolves and European brown bears - and they were considered to be human-friendly. The imported dogs were placed with sheep ranchers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. The whitedogs used by these operations were considered to be a single control breed for the purposes of the study.
The study included direct observation of behavior during normal ranch operations, as well a decoy test designed to simulate mule deer and wolf encounters. Kinka and Young recorded five behavior components (activity, posture, vocalization, proximity to livestock, and out-of-view to the observer). Within these components a number of specific behaviors were documented (like scanning, investigation, vigilance, chasing, etc.).
While the authors noted some subtle differences in behavior and responses to simulated wildlife encounters between breeds, they noted "that kangals, karakachans, transmontanos and whitedogs spent equivalent proportions of time in most behaviors during both baseline sampling and simulated wolf encounters." They also found that LGD age and time of day influenced LGD behavior and that sex had no effect on any behavior - observations I've made with my own LGDs. For example, our LGDs always seem to be much more active and vigilant at dusk than during the middle of the day. Ultimately, the authors suggest, "the homogeneity of behavioral data for multiple LGD breeds suggests that regardless of breed, LGDs operate in much the same way. As such, breed may be a less important predictor of a 'good dog' than often suggested."
So what makes a good dog? Obviously, this definition varies from one operation to the next based on context. In our operation, a good dog needs to stay with our sheep, inside our electro-net fencing. A good dog shouldn't chew on or chase (or kill!) the livestock it is protecting. A good dog should be reasonably friendly with people but prefer the company of sheep. And good dog should deter coyotes, mountain lions, black bears and other minor predators in our environment.
If wolves continue to move south, I suspect my definition of a good dog might evolve. I know ranchers in the northern Rocky Mountains who are using larger dogs (including some of the breeds evaluated in this study). A large-scale targeted grazing contractor who has grazed sheep and goats in wolf territory in Montana and Idaho swears by intact male whitedogs. Last week, I visited a sheep permittee as they turned out onto a Tahoe National Forest grazing allotment approximately 12 miles northeast of where the California Department of Fish and Wildlife detected a GPS-collared wolf in early June. The ranch manager indicated he'd be adding more dogs to each of his two bands of sheep. For those of us in California, wolves are a wild card - our dogs have never had to contend with a large, pack-hunting predator.
While formal research on the behavioral attributes of successful LGDs is critical, we also need to share our on-the-ground experiences! What do you look for in an LGD in your operation? Do you use different dogs for different situations? I suspect each of us will have a slightly different answer to these questions! I hope you'll join in this conversation!
Kinka, D., Young, J.K., A Livestock Guardian Dog by Any Other Name: Similar Response to Wolves Across Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds, (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2018.03.004
Modern electric fencing systems can be incredibly useful in a variety of settings. Single-wire portable systems can help producers manage grazing on irrigated pastures or crop stubble. Multiple-wire fences and electro-net systems are used to control sheep and goats in targeted grazing situations or on properties without permanent fencing. Multiple-wire systems can also be used to temporarily fence riparian areas and other key sites in rangeland settings. Finally, these systems can also help protect livestock from predators.
Unlike the physical barrier of a barbed wire or woven wire fence, electric fence is a psychological barrier. As such, animals need to be trained to respect electric fence - and we humans have to be trained to install, maintain, and use it correctly! And as with any management tool, efficiency is critical to making portable electric fencing systems work from a labor and cost perspective. At one time or another, we've used electric fencing in our own operation to contain sheep, goats, cattle, horses, mules, chickens and hogs.
On Thursday, November 9, we will be holding our first Electric Fencing Field Day at Robinson Ranch in Penn Valley, California, beginning at 8:30. You'll learn about the principles of electric fencing, get hands-on experience with a variety of fencing systems, and learn how to troubleshoot problems. Thanks to our co-sponsor, LiveWire Products, you'll have a chance to learn about the latest fencing technology!
For more information, or to register for this free workshop, click here! Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
If you've raised sheep or goats, you've doubtless seen symptoms of internal parasites. In our own sheep, these symptoms include diarrhea, general lethargy, anemia, and bottle jaw. If you've been in the business of raising sheep and goats for any length of time, you'll also know that dewormer resistance (that is, parasites that develop resistance to specific dewormers) is an increasingly difficult challenge. Thanks to a great webinar put on by the American Sheep Industry's Let's Grow Committee, I recently discovered a new resource for managing internal parasites in small ruminants. The American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control has an outstanding website - check it out at www.wormx.info!
We've long used the FAMACHA(c) system to identify anemic animals in our flock - anemia is a symptom of infection with Haemonchus contortus (barber pole worm). By using the FAMACHA(c) system, we can target infected animals only with our deworming treatments. According to Dr. Ray Kaplan of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, proper use of the FAMACHA(c) system "will significantly slow the development of resistance to dewormers which is becomign an extremely important concern in small ruminant production." Click here for more information on the FAMACHA(c) system.
The FAMACAH(c) system, however, doesn't tell the whole story about parasitic infection. Fecal egg counts can be used to more closely monitor the level of parasitism in your herd or flock. We've not done this systematically with our sheep, but I think we'll start! Here's more information.
At one time, our veterinarian recommended rotating deworming products to reduce the likelihood of developing resistance. Today, rotation will not prevent resistance from worsening. Instead, experts now recommend that dewormers be used together at the same time in combination. Another article by Dr. Kaplan indicates that using combinations of dewormers gives each drug an additive effect, which means fewer resitant worms survive the treatment. Click here to read the full article. Be sure to read the "Precautions and issues to consider" section!
Finally, someone told me when we first started raising sheep that chicory contained a compound that was helpful in controlling internal parasites. It turns out that there may be something to this! An experiment conducted in Ohio in 2009-2010 investigated non-traditional forages (including chicory) as a strategy for reducing parasite burden in lambs. The researchers found that lambs grazed chicory showed statistically lower fecal egg counts. They acknowledge that "grazing forage chicory is not an effective parasite control strategy in and of itself," but that it might have potential as one tool within a multi-tool approach. Click here for more information on chicory. It may be worth seeking funding for conducting a similar trial in California - contact me if you're interested in researching this topic!
Finally, here a few more helpful links:
Sheep Agriculture (with links to ASI webinars)
US Lamb Resource Center: great information on managing lambs