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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Pen Confinement of Yearling Ewes with Cows Or Heifers for 14 Days to Produce Bonded Sheep

Authors
item Fredrickson, Ed - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV
item Anderson, Dean
item Estell, Richard
item Havstad, Kris
item Shupe, William
item Remmenga, M - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV

Submitted to: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 25, 2001
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Few grasslands co-evolved with a single large herbivore. In spite of this, modern animal husbandry practices in the United States rarely use mixed species stocking to capitalize on the diverse grazing habits of animals. Lack of animal diversity may in part be responsible for a loss of forage productivity common to many areas. Furthermore, mixed, or multispecies, stocking is a more environmentally sound practice that increases productivity per unit area and typically profit per unit area. When different livestock species graze the same area of a pasture concurrently, the forage resource is utilized more uniformly and in the case of mixing sheep with cattle, greater protection of sheep from predators is realized. Fences can also be designed to allow free movement of most wildlife species while controlling the distribution of cattle and bonded sheep. In brushy country, sheep are easier to locate when bonded to cattle. Regardless of the potential benefits, there is producer resistance to mixed species stocking. In part, resistance is due to social factors and the greater management skills required. In the case of using pen confinement to create bonded animals that stay together, the costs associated with labor, facilities and feed are likely deterrents. Currently it is recommended that sheep and cattle be penned together for a 30-day period to create bonded animals. The research described in this paper demonstrates that a bond can be achieved in 14 days, and age of the animal is not as critical as we previously thought. This 53% reduction in labor and associated cost should make pen bonding more attractive to livestock professionals thus increasing general productivity and profitability of many livestock operations while having a favorable effect on the environment.

Technical Abstract: Mixed species stocking uses forage resources more efficiently when compared to single species stocking, especially in pastures having complex assemblages of forage species. When mixed species (sheep and cattle) remain consistently as a cohesive group (flerd), predation risks are lessened and fencing and herding costs are reduced. To maintain a cohesive group, a 30- day bonding period is recommended in which young sheep and bovine pairs ar penned together. The purpose of this research was to test if pen confinement can be reduced from 30 to 14 days, reducing feed, labor and overhead costs. Sixteen mature cows (7 to 8 years of age) and 16 9-month- old heifers were randomly paired with 1 of 32 yearling ewe lambs. Eight cow/ewe (PC) and 8 heifer/ewe (PH) pairs were maintained individually in 2 x 6-meter pens for 14-days. The other 8 pairs of cow/ewe (CC) and heifer/ ewe (CH) pairs were separated by species with each species maintained on separate pastures for 14-days. After 14 days, pairs were released in observation paddocks and separation distances between treatment pairs were measured during a 30-minute open field test. Separation distance did not differ (P=0.973) between the PC and PH treatments; however, separation distance for CC vs. CH (P<0.004), CC vs. PC (P<0.001) and CH vs. PH (P<0.002) all differed. Mean separation distance (meters) and standard errors were 40 3.9, 3 0.3, 76 5.3 and 4 1.4 for CH, PH, CC and PC treatments, respectively. Previously penned animals spent more time grazing and less time walking than non-penned animals. Cow age was not found important in establishing a bond. These data suggest that an interspecific bond using pen confinement can be formed within 14 days, representing 53% savings in time and associated costs.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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