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PINE BLUFF -- Midsummer is often a time of change for small ruminant producers, and this summer is no exception, according to David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist and interim dean of graduate studies for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

"Lambs and kids born in the spring are about to be weaned in midsummer," Fernandez said in a news release from UAPB. "That often makes for a noisy and stressful time for the lambs and kids, and the farmer."

In recent years, much progress has been made in reducing weaning stress in calves through the practice of fence line weaning, he said. With fence line weaning, calves are separated from their dams by a fence, but they can still see, hear and even make physical contact with their dams. Research has shown that calves experience significantly less stress when weaned this way.

Reducing stress is critical to the health, growth and well-being of farm animals. Kids and lambs that are stressed are especially susceptible to coccidiosis, Fernandez said. Coccidiosis can cause long term damage to the digestive tract, resulting in poor growth. Many kids and lambs die of dehydration and blood loss due to coccidiosis.

"Very little data exists regarding fence line weaning and small ruminants," he said. "Lambs do not appear to experience more or less stress when fence line weaned compared to traditional weaning. No studies have been conducted with goat kids."

Weaning can also be stressful on does and ewes, Fernandez said. Milk is still being produced in the udder, and it can become swollen and tender.

"Some researchers recommend transferring dams to lower quality pastures or putting them on a dry lot for a couple of days with low-quality hay," he said. "A few also recommend withholding water for 24 hours. Both of these strategies help to slow or stop milk production and reduce stress. But water should not be withheld during exceptionally hot weather. Again, very little research has been done with sheep or goats."

For more information on this or other livestock-related questions, call Fernandez at 870-575-8316 or email [email protected]

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