Sheep and goats getting more popular on southeast MN farms

The sounds of sheep and goats on southeast Minnesota farms are becoming a little more common than most residents realize. The last couple of years have seen increasing interest in raising the smaller breeds of livestock for a variety of reasons.

sheep and goats

Sheep and goat numbers are picking up on farms across southeast Minnesota, due in part to the smaller size of the animal, especially when it comes to 4H competition.

As sheep interest continues growing in both Houston and Fillmore counties, the Extension Service will host a couple of sheep-related workshops this summer. A sheep producer workshop is set for Rushford on June 16th, with a sheep workshop for area 4H members on the 17th in Preston. Extension Educator Michael Cruse said many area residents might not know that sheep and goat numbers are on the rise.

“Sheep and goats are on the increase in Houston and Fillmore counties,” Cruse said, “especially for 4H projects. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary reason is they’re smaller animals and easier to handle for 4H kids.”

He said the sheep producer meeting in Rushford is a unique opportunity for area livestock farmers. The University of Minnesota Extension Service recently hired a Sheep Specialist named Travis Hoffman, who the U of M is sharing with North Dakota. After talking with Hoffman over the winter, Cruse wanted to put together a couple of events to maximize his time if he made the trip to southeast Minnesota.

sheep and goats

Houston and Fillmore County Extension Agent Michael Cruse is putting on Extension programs for sheep farmers and 4H kids that want to exhibit sheep and goats at local competitions. (photo from bluffcountrynews.com)

“That’s why we put together a two-day event, starting on June 16th from 2-5 pm,” Cruse said, “Hoffman will be here to do a producer meeting in Rushford and talk about everything from lamb marketing to production management to economics, with a pizza supper at the end.

“A lot of the raising and marketing of sheep is similar to other types of livestock,” Cruse added. “But with sheep, there are a lot of products you can get from them. You can market the wool, the meat, or market them as show animals. There’s a whole range of avenues you could take, and that doesn’t even take into account the organic and grass fed categories that beef is also subject to.”

He said producers would have a chance to visit with both Hoffman and Cruse after the meeting. Then, the attention turns from sheep producers to 4H kids the next day from 8 till noon at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds.

“It’ll be a rotational type of educational event with three or four sessions for the youth,” Cruse said. “Showmanship will be one of the educational sessions as Travis (Hoffman) was also a state judge for sheep. The kids will be allowed to bring one of their own 4H-registered sheep to this event in order to practice showing their sheep, learning to get their feet in the right spot, and how to answer a judge’s questions professionally.”

He said this is a great opportunity for area 4H kids to learn, providing they can get enough people signed up.

Cruse said there are a number of reasons for the growing interest in sheep and goats across the area. First and foremost, there are marketing opportunities for sheep and sheep products, especially in Iowa. There’s also an immigrant population in Rochester and the Twin Cities that prefers both sheep and goat meat.

The other side of it is the animals themselves. They’re much smaller and don’t require as much land to raise, especially for 4H families. Sheep and goats don’t need as much space as a beef cow or larger hog.

“It’s a lot easier to get three or four ewes onto a piece of property than a full-grown dairy steer, for example,” Cruse said. “It’s also easier for the younger children in a farm family to handle the animals too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronic Wasting Disease confirmed near Lanesboro

DNR initiates disease response plan; offers hunters information on field dressing

Test results show two deer harvested by hunters in southeastern Minnesota were infected with Chronic Wasting Disease, according to the Department of Natural Resources. 

One deer has been confirmed as CWD-positive. Confirmation of the second is expected later this week. The deer, both male, were killed near Lanesboro in Fillmore County during the first firearms deer season.

Chronic Wasting disease deer hunting Minnesota

Minnesota DNR testing has found two deer with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) near Lanesboro. It’s the first time CWD has been found in southeast Minnesota since 2010. (photo from peekerhealth.com)

The two deer were harvested approximately 1 mile apart. These are the only deer to test positive from 2,493 samples collected Nov. 5-13. Results are still pending from 373 additional test samples collected during the opening three days of the second firearms season, Nov. 19-21.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose but is not known to affect human health. While it is found in deer in states bordering southeastern Minnesota, it was only found in a single other wild deer in Minnesota in 2010.

The DNR discovered the disease when sampling hunter-killed deer this fall in southeastern Minnesota as part of its CWD surveillance program. Dr. Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said hunter and landowner cooperation on disease surveillance is the key to keeping the state’s deer herd healthy.

“We were proactively looking for the disease, a proven strategy that allows us to manage CWD by finding it early, reacting quickly and aggressively to control it and hopefully eliminating its spread,” he said.

It is unknown how the two CWD-positive deer, which were harvested 4 miles west of Lanesboro in deer permit area 348, contracted the disease, Cornicelli said. 

“We want to thank hunters who have brought their deer to our check stations for sampling,” he said. “While finding CWD-positive deer is disappointing, we plan to work with hunters, landowners and other organizations to protect the state’s deer herd and provide hunters the opportunity to pass on their deer hunting traditions.”

Chronic wasting disease Minnesota deer hunting

Two deer have been found with Chronic Wasting Disease near Lanesboro. The disease doesn’t present a threat to humans but it is recommended that you don’t eat meat from deer that test positive. (Photo from KIMT.com

These are the first wild deer found to have Chronic Wasting Disease since a deer harvested in fall 2010 near Pine Island tested positive. It was found during a successful disease control effort prompted by the detection in 2009 of CWD on a domestic elk farm. The DNR, landowners and hunters worked together to sample more than 4,000 deer in the Pine Island area from 2011 to 2013, and no additional infected deer were found.

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization have found no scientific evidence that the disease presents a health risk to humans who come in contact with infected animals or eat infected meat. Still, the CDC advises against eating meat from animals known to have CWD.

With the muzzleloader deer season stretching into mid-December and archery season open through Saturday, Dec. 31, hunters should take these recommended precautions when harvesting deer:

  • Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer.
  • Bone out the meat from your animal. Don’t saw through bone, and avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
  • Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes. 
  • If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal.

The DNR already has begun implementing the state’s CWD response plan. Three additional CWD testing stations were opened in Fillmore County last weekend and electronic registration was turned off in two additional deer permit areas.

“We’ll wait until the late 3B firearms season concludes this weekend and analyze test results from all the samples we collect from hunters,” Cornicelli said. “That will provide a better indication of the potential prevalence and distribution of CWD so we can determine boundaries for a disease management zone and the actions we’ll take to manage the disease and limit its spread.”

The DNR began CWD testing in southeastern Minnesota again this fall in response to expanded CWD infections in Wisconsin, Illinois, and northeast Iowa, as well as new and growing infections in Arkansas and Missouri. The increasing prevalence and geographic spread of the disease also prompted an expanded carcass import restriction that does not allow whole carcasses of deer, elk, moose and caribou to be brought into Minnesota.

The discovery of CWD in wild deer reinforces the need for the vigilance that disease surveillance and carcass import restrictions provide. Although inconvenient, hunter cooperation with these measures help protect Minnesota’s deer herd.

“Working with landowners and hunters to better protect deer from disease is vital to Minnesota’s hunting tradition and economy and most important, the deer population in general,” Cornicelli said. “In states where CWD has become well-established in wild deer, efforts at elimination have been unsuccessful. Research has shown that if established, the disease will reduce deer populations in the long term. Nobody wants this to happen in Minnesota.” 

Because much of southeastern Minnesota’s land is privately owned, the DNR will work with landowners when collecting additional samples to assess disease distribution and reduce the potential for CWD to spread. Sample collection could take the form of a late winter deer hunt, landowner shooting permits and sharpshooting in conjunction with cooperating landowners who provide permission.

“Those decisions will be made after surveillance is done this hunting season,” Cornicelli said.

The DNR has been on the lookout for CWD since 2002, when the disease first was detected at a domestic elk farm in central Minnesota. In recent years it has put additional focus on southeastern Minnesota; the region abuts Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa. Wisconsin has 43 counties affected by CWD and the disease has been detected in northeastern Iowa’s Allamakee County.

Since 2002, the DNR has tested approximately 50,000 deer, elk, and moose for Chronic Wasting Disease.

CWD is transmitted primarily from animal-to-animal by infectious agents in feces, urine or saliva. The disease also can persist for a long time in the environment and may be contracted from contaminated soil. The movement of live animals is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease to new areas.
 
For more information, including maps of CWD surveillance areas, frequently asked questions, hunter information and venison processing, visit the DNR’s Chronic Wasting Disease homepage at www.mndnr.gov/cwd. Landowners, hunters and citizens can stay engaged and informed by visiting the CWD page and signing up to receive an email automatically when new information on CWD management becomes available.

More questions about CWD?

The Rochester Farmer’s Market is up and running

“If you stop at the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market, chances are good you won’t need to hit the grocery store to fill out your shopping list,” said Dave Kotsonas, the Market Manager at the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market.  “If it’s in season in Minnesota gardens and farm fields, you’ll find it at the Farmer’s Market.”

The Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:30am to Noon at the corner of 4th Avenue SE and 4th Street, featuring produce and so much more (Photo by Chad Smith/Full Sail University)

The Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:30am to Noon at the corner of 4th Avenue SE and 4th Street, featuring produce and so much more (Photo by Chad Smith/Full Sail University)

The Market is open Saturday mornings from 7:30 until noon at the corner of Fourth Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street in Rochester. It operates rain or shine, until the last Saturday in October.  The Market will be expanding hours of operation and locations in June, so check out the website for a complete schedule breakdown.

The goal of the Farmer’s Market is to support sustainable agriculture and the family farm by providing a well-organized retail marketplace for farmers to sell their goods, and thereby improve the relationship between farmers and the non-rural community.

In addition to the edible products, you’ll find a wide variety of craft items.  At different times of the season, you could see things like dried flower and plant arrangements, spun sheep’s wool and woven wool rugs, dried gourd art, wooden toys and whirligigs, goat’s milk soup, and even beeswax candles.

Readers in a Minneapolis Star Tribune reader’s poll chose the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market as the 2014 Farmer’s Market of the Year.

Here are a few of the sounds of the Farmer’s Market:

Sounds of the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market from Chad Smith on Vimeo.