Pen confinement of yearling ewes with cows or heifers for 14 days to produce bonded sheep

TitlePen confinement of yearling ewes with cows or heifers for 14 days to produce bonded sheep
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsFredrickson E.L., Anderson D.M., Estell RE, Havstad K, Shupe, W. Larry, Remmenga M.D.
JournalSmall Ruminant Research
Date PublishedJune 1, 2001
ARIS Log Number131236
Keywordsbeef cattle, bonded sheep, bonding, cows, heifers, Mixed species stocking, Multispecies stocking, pen confinement, sheep, yearling ewes

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 egroup, a 30-day bonding period is recommended in which young sheep and bovine pairs are penned together. This research tested 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 eight heifer/ewe (PH) pairs were maintained individually in 2mx6m pens for 14 days. The other eight-cow/ewe (NC) and heifer/ewe (NH) pairs were separated by species with each species maintained on separate pastures for 14-day period. 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 NC vs NH, NC versus PC, and NH vs PH 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 nonpenned 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 when compared to confinement lasting 30 days.