Sheep Symposium draws crowd for info-filled day

AFP Correspondent

BLACKSBURG, Va. (Jan. 24, 2017) — About 90 members of Virginia’s sheep industry gathered on Jan. 13 for the annual Virginia Shepherds’ Symposium and learned about several issues involving the industry.
Topics ranged from new regulations in the Veterinary Feed Directive, to forages, to parasite control and genetics.
While the adults were having their informational meeting in the meeting room, a separate Young Shepherds symposium was held in the show ring at the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena at Virginia.
The Virginia Sheep Producers Association presented Cecil King, a Pulaski County sheep producer, its Roy Meek Outstanding Sheep Producer Award.
In making the presentation, Dr. Scott, Greiner, Extension advisor to the group, said it was special that King is from the county where Meek farmed and served as Extension agent.
Meek is remembered for his leadership in marketing sheep and creating the tel-o-auction to sell Southwest Virginia Sheep, a big step in marketing livestock electronically. 
King, who has a flock numbering in the hundreds, is known for his promotion of the industry and leading the formation of the New River Valley Sheep and Goat Club. 
An explanation of the implications of the Veterinary Fed Directive requirements that became effective Jan. 1, drew interest from the audience during a presentation by Dr. John Currin, Extension veterinarian with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
Currin explained that the VFD requirements are not a way to increase veterinarian’s income or a plot by the government, but have grown from outside pressures to keep antibiotics important to human medicine out of the food supply and avoid bacteria becoming resistant to them.
“We all need to be good stewards of antimicrobials,” Currin said.
Record keeping in this program is necessary and very important for all those involved, Currin stressed.  He said the veterinarian needs to provide the client with written copies as well as keeping the written recommendation for two years and making them available to the Federal Drug Administration upon request.
The program is for a farmer to have a valid client-patient relationship with a veterinarian, Curran said. This relationship will enable a farmer to obtain a VFD from this veterinarian for certain antibiotics that have been available over the counter.
He added the valid relationship requires the veterinarian to know the farm and animals and to visit the farm at some point, but not for every VFD. A visit at least once a year seems to be the benchmark for establishing the relationship, he said. If the vet is familiar with the animals and farms, a telephone request usually can be honored.
Currin said the VFD which is valid for six months is not a prescription but it is needed for the feed mill to be able to add the needed medicine to feed for minor species. It’s called extralabel use of medicated feed.
Pastures are basic to ruminant production, Dr. John Fike of the Crop and Soil Sciences Department at Virginia Tech, told the group.  He stressed that a lot of expenses can be saved with good management practices. 
“Be pro-active and not re-active,” he said.
A key to good soil is taking soil samples and maintaining or building soils following the recommendations of the samples as practicable, he said.  
“With a limited budget and rundown soils, it may make better sense to build the nutrients up slowly over time,” he said. Getting pH to a reasonable level for the forages you need is probably one of the first best investments to in soil fertility because it will help improve availability of nutrients already in the soil system.  Adequate pH also is important to support legume growth which can add N to the system for free” he explained.
Dr. Anne Zajac from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, reviewed current thinking on parasite control in sheep.  She said parasites are becoming resistant to de-worming medicines and suggested management practices and growing parasite resistant breeds as ways to manage the problem of internal worms.