Mark Your Calendar!
The West Virginia Small Ruminant Project, formerly the Sheep Management Project, was introduced in 1998 by the West Virginia University College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Consumer Sciences in cooperation with the WVU Cooperative Extension Service, USDA Wildlife Services, and the WV Department of Agriculture. The Project is currently being supported through funding provided by the WV State Legislature. The Project’s goal is to help farmers increase the economic efficiency and overall profitability of their small ruminant enterprises through improved production practices and through the introduction of new technologies and to help revitalize this industry in West Virginia.
The West Virginia Small Ruminant Project is an outreach of West Virginia University. The long-term goal of the Project is to help farmers realize a greater return to small ruminant production and to help revitalize this industry in West Virginia.
The initial focus of the Project has been on the development and implementation of out-of-season breeding and lambing programs. Out-of-season breeding and lambing can increase marketing flexibility and give producers the opportunity to capitalize on spring market incentives. The project also offers synchronization programs for use by producers targeting special ethnic and religious holiday markets and for those wanting to concentrate labor at lambing time.
In some areas of the state, fall lambing programs also provide a management tool that may help reduce lamb losses due to predators. A survey of shepherds in 23 West Virginia counties indicated that in 1995-1996, coyotes accounted for 83% of all losses of lambs and 30% of all losses of ewes to predators.
The survey also indicated that lamb losses were concentrated in the in the months of April through June, when lambs were on pasture with their dams. The survey showed predator losses nearly twice a great for lambs born February through April, compared with lambs born in other months. By implementing a strategic shift in the lambing and growing periods for lambs away from the period when coyotes are whelping, feeding their young, and teaching their young to hunt, shepherds may be able to effectively reduce lamb losses to coyotes.
In addition to the out-of-season breeding and synchronization programs offered by the WV Small Ruminant Project, the Project offers programs and support in the areas of reproductive management, selection and breeding, nutrition and forage management, and financial management. Special programs have included nutrition and forage management workshops, ram breeding soundness evaluation clinics, ultrasound pregnancy evaluation services, and financial analysis using WV Quick-View to determine unit cost of production. Please check the Calendar of Events for updates on Project workshops and special programs. The Project’s quarterly newsletter, News Ewe Can Use, also provides information about upcoming events as well as Project updates, management tips and information, and State and National industry news.