By Joel Penhorwood
Sheep nutrition, research updates, and even pasture fencing with satellites were among the highlights that greeted sheep producers and supporters at the 2018 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium in Wooster on Saturday.
“We had another dynamic program. We brought Woody Lane in from Oregon. He’s a world-renowned speaker and expert in sheep production and management,” said Roger High, executive director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and the Ohio Sheep and Wool Program. “We had some of the researchers from OARDC and OSU that came in and updated us on some of the sheep research that’s going on out there in the research units.”
Programming designed specifically for youth was also presented for the first time at the Symposium. In addition to educational talks, the event serves as a time each year to recognize Ohio sheep leaders with various awards.
Scholarship winners included:
- Ben Gastier of Erie County with the Gralph Grimshaw Memorial Scholarship
- Katie Frost of Fayette County with the Dr. Jack Judy Memorial Scholarship
- OSIA LEAD Council Scholarships: Kayla Ritter – Montgomery County; Seth Wasilewski, Richland County; Samantha McAllister, Darke County; and Austen Wood – Wayne County.
Zane Parrott of Morrow County, the Ohio FFA State Sheep Proficiency Award winner was recognized and Sean McCutcheon of Licking County was named the 2018 State 4-H Sheep Achievement Award winner.
“For the Distinguished Service Awards we recognized Dave Rowe for his years of service on the Ohio Sheep and Wool Program board and Elysian Fields for working with us in marketing a lot of lambs through their system,” High said.
“And then our Friend of the Sheep Industry was Mike Bumgarner for all the work that he did in the dissolution of the club lamb association and then the creation of the OSIA LEAD program, which is our tremendously dynamic youth program that we have here in Ohio. We had Doug Lichtenberger for the Environmental Stewardship Award from over in Marion County. Last but not least, Dave Burkhart, a longtime sheep farmer from over in Hardin County was the Charles Boyles Master Shepherd Award.”
Dr. John Foltz, chair of the Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences gave an update on work being done by the college, specifically highlighting much-talked about changes to animal research facilities at the Columbus campus.
“There are a lot of changes, a lot of excitement. The university has entered into an agreement to sell the Case Road properties, some people call it our Sheep Farm. We received a little over $5 million for that. That’s presenting both some opportunities and some challenges for us. We have our sheep flock located there. It’s a very integral part of our education and outreach mission and so I’ve been tasked with trying to find a location for that. We’re probably going to site it on the north side of the road there at Don Scott Field. It may be a temporary solution, but we’ll have opportunity to move all the animals over there and continue to have our classes,” Foltz said.
He mentioned over 800 students use the facility for learning experiences around the year, making it an important focus of the school. The college is making big changes to the Waterman Farm on Lane Avenue, with an investment of around $50 million over the next three to five years.
“Planned for the spring of 2020, we hope to break ground for a $15 to 20 million multi-species animal learning center. Some of the money that came from the sale of the Case Road property will be plowed into that facility. Our anticipation is that it will likely be a mid-sized arena with a variety of wings for different species,” he said.
One of the topics that caught more buzz from attendees was Foltz’s mentioning of a new program working with virtual fencing, something that has been talked about in the sheep world in recent years.
“I just recently signed a memorandum of understanding with an Australian firm that has a product called E-Shepherd and it’s a virtual fence. The quick description of that is that you draw a polygon on Google Earth and their software sends those signals to a collar on the animal and it works just like the invisible fence, but there’s actually no physical fence that’s there. You can move it at will, you can use it to move into new pastures, to keep animals out of riparian areas. Our hope is we’re going to be doing research with that to benefit livestock producers, cattle and sheep producers in particular.”
In addition to the latest on Ohio State’s facilities, attendees were treated to updates from around the sheep world, including the research going on at Ohio State University, as recapped by Brady Campbell, program coordinator of the OSU Sheep Team.
“OSU is really involved with the great Buckeye state being the largest sheep producing state east of the Mississippi, it’s no surprise that we have a lot of research going on here. Over the last 20 years at Ohio State, specifically OARDC up here in Wooster, we’ve actually done over 100 research projects specifically focusing on sheep,” Campbell said. “This morning we had Dr. Ale Relling, he comes to us from Argentina and he gives us a unique perspective of taking a look at fetal development and how our feeding strategies can affect the growth and development of those lambs being born from those ewes being fed specific diets. Now what he also wants to take a look at in the future is how those diets containing certain fats will affect the longevity and reproductiveness of those animals.
“Our second speaker this morning was Dr. Liz Parker. She comes to us from Australia — she has her veterinarian degree and now she’s here in the United States with her husband, also Dr. Parker, about what she’s really focusing on is the anti-microbial resistance. Her thought of that was where is that originating and where is that occurring?”
“Dr. Tony Parker talking about the new opportunities that we have in our department. One specifically is called CHAIR, the Center for Human and Animal Interactions. He’s really involved in that — how wildlife and livestock interact with one another, predators being a big one.”
Campbell concluded the day’s research updates with an overview of his PhD research, a focus on sustainability of grass-fed lamb in the eastern United States.
“What we’re trying to do is make different strategies and protocols to put together that will be beneficial to producers that are wanting to raise sheep out on pastures,” Campbell said. “Thinking about our temperature and environment, how can producers have sustainable production out on pasture raising grass-fed lamb? That’s becoming a large market and why not with all the grazing pastures that we have available. Some of our projects include using annual forages during the fall, so one being the cooler temperatures and two, thinking about the mechanical structures of the forages such as turnips. Are parasites able to crawl up and down the leaf of the turnip? Can that be a way of providing a sustainable product to our population?
“We’re also working on different techniques to try to quantify the pasture density of larvae out on pasture. Take a sample of forage, put it through a washing machine if you would, and determine what kind of parasites are out there and how heavy is it? That could be way we could manage our grazing intensities.”
Stay up to date on the latest from the OSU Sheep Team at http://u.osu.edu/sheep/.