Finishing lambs when the rain won’t stop

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—Much of the Midwest received an extraordinary amount of rainfall this fall. In Minnesota, meteorologist Paul Douglass reported that most of the state had 10 to 20 inches more precipitation than normal in 2019 through October 25, making this the sixth wettest year on record. Other states also saw huge volumes of rain this year.

While the sheep in these places were knee deep in beautiful green grass, some of you might have noticed the lambs were in very lean condition and not attaining the finish required for slaughter.

Continue reading “Finishing lambs when the rain won’t stop”

The biggest pitfalls to producing grassfed lamb

Janet McNally with lambs

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota — There is no denying that producing a grassfed lamb requires skill and know-how. Grazing is about replacing purchased inputs with knowledge inputs. Unlike grains and stored forages that can be tested and formulated into a ration with a predictable result, green and growing forages are constantly changing.

Therefore it is impossible to offer a cookbook for producing grassfed lambs and expect everyone, everywhere, to achieve the same result. A lot of education is required. Most importantly, the grazier needs to train his or her eye to observe forages and animals so they know when to make changes. This will not happen without just jumping in and getting some experience — hopefully first in the pastures of a mentor, then later in your own pastures. Continue reading “The biggest pitfalls to producing grassfed lamb”

Land salmon? Grassfed lamb’s Omega-3s shine

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—While doing research on diet and health, I found an article describing lamb as “land salmon.” The author claimed this title was earned because the omega-6:omega-3 ratio of lamb is closer to salmon than any other domestic meat.

Photo: Janet McNally
Lambs finished on a brassica mix produced very high omega-3 numbers.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important to our health. But modern diets tend to be too high in the omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation of tissues and lead to serious health problems. Many nuts, grains and vegetable oils are high in omega-6. Continue reading “Land salmon? Grassfed lamb’s Omega-3s shine”

If you want to build topsoil, try bale grazing

Janet McNally with lambs

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—In past articles I’ve described how much more productive my managed pastures have been compared to the continuously grazed pasture right across the fence line.

I’ve also told how much more productive and drought-tolerant my pastures have become since I moved toward a mob-grazing system with more frequent moves and longer (six- to eight-week) rest periods. I always attributed the improvement to deeper roots and better plant vigor, both of which tend to be true when plants have longer rest periods. Continue reading “If you want to build topsoil, try bale grazing”

Debunking the ‘can’t finish lambs on grass’ myth

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—One of the more rewarding things I do is visit sheep graziers around the U.S. and Canada who do an outstanding job producing a quality product. I’ve been absolutely amazed at the healthy, well-grown lambs with clean backsides and loads of bloom that reach marketable weights on all-forage programs.

Photo: Janet McNally. Janet McNally’s May-born lambs were raised on native pastures until weaning, then finished for six weeks on turnips. They were wormed with valbazen August 1 and September 15 for flukes. Average weight for the entire lamb crop was 82 lbs. on November 16, and another five weeks of grazing should put the average to 100 lbs. Including the dam’s feed cost, total per-lamb feed cost from birth to 100 lbs. is $18.

While everyone is almost on their own in exploring what works and what does not, many of these people come to the same conclusions on some things, such as breeds that work and those that do not. Yet they may have a dozen different strategies for addressing problems such as parasites, all of which work. The bottom line is that there are a good number of producers around the country producing quality, grass-fed lambs. Continue reading “Debunking the ‘can’t finish lambs on grass’ myth”

Sheep add value to organic crop rotation

Ontario family shows they can cut costs, add income on tillable land

By Janet McNally It has always been my contention that sheep in the Grain Belt should be a part of a mixed crop and livestock farm. In most parts of the world, sheep are not the only enterprise on tillable cropland. They are employed as integral components of cropping programs by assisting with weed control and soil fertility, and in marketing crop residues.

Photo: Janet McNally. To smooth the weaning process, the Boettchers set up a temporary pen and chute, and allow lambs to play there for a few days before they’re sorted. Son Martin is in foreground.

With the right approach, sheep are a very profitable addition to such farms. Modern agriculture has encouraged mono-cropping, with fertilizers and farm chemicals replacing livestock as crop management tools. Mono-cropping livestock has been a growing trend as well. Continue reading “Sheep add value to organic crop rotation”