What is IALF? And What do They Do?

One question I get pretty regularly in both professional and personal circles is, “What is it you actually do?” This is a fair question. My title isn’t exactly like other positions, like accountant, mechanic, or chef, where you can easily glean what my day-to-day tasks are. Because of that, I thought I’d take some time to explain really what my organization is about, and how we do that day-to-day or season-to-season.

I work for the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. We’re a relatively small non-profit foundation that was founded four years ago to help promote agricultural literacy in all Iowans. By “all Iowans,” we mean three basic segments: students, educators, and adults.

Some of our programs, like this blog and our social media accounts, are directed towards the adult learner. We like to bring in topics that people may be curious about and answer questions about agriculture that people have. We do this a lot with our “Why Do They Do That?” series on our blog.

Many people assume that we do a lot of classroom programs. This is a fair assumption, considering IALF is the state contact for Agriculture in the Classroom, and classroom programs are a large part of Agriculture in the Classroom. However, since we are a small foundation and there are lots of school districts in the state, we rely on local Agriculture in the Classroom coordinators and volunteers to do most of these local programs. Instead of coming into those classrooms ourselves, we work with the local coordinators to give them support and resources and help make their jobs a little easier.

That doesn’t mean we don’t travel! A big part of our student programming comes from events, like the Iowa Children’s Water Festival, the Kid’s Club stage at the Iowa State Fair, and STEM festivals across the state. At these events, we like to do fun, hands-on activities that incorporate agriculture into STEM topics, like seed germination or genetics.


The segment we focus the most on, however, are the educators. We believe that if we reach educators, we can reach more people in the long run. However, this segment can be broken down further into formal educators (like K-12 classroom teachers) and informal educators (like Agriculture in the Classroom coordinators, local volunteers, and others that are interested). Because of this importance and all of the people it encompasses, we spend lots of time on resource development and support.

We create student readers, lesson plans, and kits that teachers can use in their classrooms. We also collect high-quality books, curricula, and other helpful materials that can be used by teachers. Every summer, we host teacher professional development workshops across the state to showcase these things and help display how agriculture can be used as the context for Iowa’s core standards. And if that wasn’t enough, we also offer grant and award programs specifically for teachers!


For our informal educators, we host training sessions at various conferences and meetings. We help them plan their programming and assist in aligning it to core standards. We lend them high-quality materials free of charge, and we also have grant opportunities that may be applicable for their programs. We also spend lots of time with these people talking about their goals, upcoming programs, and what we can do to help.

So what does a regular day look like for us? That depends! Our team consists of three full-time employees, an intern, and a part-time administrative assistant. Since there aren’t many of us, we tend to help each other out a lot with day-to-day tasks. These tasks vary a lot season-to-season, depending on if we are out doing teacher professional development workshops in the summer; planning teacher pre-service and education conference sessions in the fall; or managing STEM festivals, grants, and contests in the spring.

My role specifically as Education Program Coordinator deals a lot with getting people the resources they need. I can regularly be found answering emails from teachers or Agriculture in the Classroom coordinators about what resources we have that can help for their specific programs. I help send them materials, talk through programs, and help coordinate volunteers to staff booths at STEM festivals across the state. I can also be found regularly doing weird things, like going to Lowe’s for roofing nails and five bags of potting soil for an upcoming student event!

My other team members may focus more on educating teachers through online courses, professional conferences, or outreach efforts. They may also spend time helping new Agriculture in the Classroom programs get started, or provide extra support for those that are more established. They may spend time working with sponsors, or mailing materials, or writing press releases, or one of the other many tasks that we as a team accomplish.

In all, IALF wants to educate Iowans. We tend to focus our efforts on reaching those that educate others, simply to maximize our reach, but we are always keeping our eyes open for more ways to reach Iowans. In fact, in the four years since IALF was founded, we have increased just our student impact by almost six times! Because of that growth, we’ve had to flex and learn, and I don’t think we’re done yet!


Why Do They Do That? – Crop Scouting

crop scoutLast summer my time was spent walking the corn and soybean fields of Southeast Iowa searching for weeds and pests that did not belong in the field. But why was I needed as a crop scout? Farmers’ livelihoods depend on their crops. Weeds and pests can easily overtake the field if not carefully controlled. It was my responsibility as a crop scout to identify the weeds and other possible concerns in the field and inform the farmer.

So what are crop scouts looking for in the field? First they look for any abnormalities in the plant. When plants are off-colored, chewed, stunted or dead, that could indicate issues that the farmer needs to be aware of. The causes could be soil, pest, or nutrient related, but it is important to determine the cause of the problem so it can be solved quickly.

The purpose of scouting is to give a representative assessment of the entire field. While scouting, it is important to look at multiple areas of the field. It depends on the size of the field for how many samples are taken. The rule of thumb is to check a minimum of five locations in fields of less than 100 acres. In fields greater than 100 acres, a minimum of 10 samples should be taken. Taking random samples is imperative to having a representative assessment of the field. Scouts do not just focus on the entrance, edges, waterways, high, and low areas, but rather randomly select various spots in the field to collect samples and stand counts. 

A crop scout keeps busy early in the season identifying weeds that are in the field. Scouting for weeds before planting seeds allows the farmer to know what weeds are growing in the field, the growth stage of the weeds, and the weed populations. Controlling weeds before they reach four inches tall can help eliminate yield loss. After the weeds have grown over four inches tall, they are harder to control.  Knowing what weeds are in the field allows the farmer to make better management decisions while it is easier to combat the weed issue in the field.

Scouting after the seeds are planting can show farmers seed damage, early pest damage, and many other factors. When plants start emerging, taking stand counts helps the farmer decided if they need to replant. They can also evaluate their management decisions and make changes for next years planting season. When taking a stand count measure 1/1000 of an acre. This measurement can be found by using the table below. Then count the number of plants in the measured area. Take at least six samples throughout the field. Then take the average number of plants and multiply it by 1,000 to calculate the final plant population per acre in the field. Most farmers plant corn at a rate of 29,000 to 38,000 seeds per acre and soybeans at a rate of 130,000 seeds for 21 inch row spacing and 210,000 seeds for 7 inch rows per acre based on 90% germination and 90% emergence rate.

crop row spacing

Crop scouts also keep a watchful eye out for insects. The scout must identify the insects present in the field, what ones are harmful, the amount of insects, and assess the damage caused by the pests. Damage can be seen by observing the foliage, seed heads and pods, stems and roots. By swinging a net over the top of the crop canopy, scouts are able to capture insects in the net and get an accurate estimate of how many insects there are per square meter. Inspecting the top individual leaves for insects can also be done in addition  to using a sweep net. It is important to observe the stem and roots to look for any sings of damage. Punctures on the stem can indicate insect damage. Signs of chewing can be an indication of insect damage even when you do not see any insects at the time of the scout.

Knowing the symptoms of plant diseases, is another important skill for crop scouting. Plant diseases can be caused by weather, fertilizers, nutrient deficiencies, herbicides, and soil problems. Watch this video for a quick rundown of corn diseases from an Iowa State University Field Pathologist.

Farmers want to make sure they know what is occurring in their fields, so they are sure to scout for weeds, pests, and diseases. Next time you drive by a corn or soybean field, take a look to see if there is someone out scouting a field.


P.S. Did you ever spend time walking fields as a crop scout? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Montana Cattle in Iowa?

I’m originally from Montana, but I’ve been living in the Midwest now for more than a decade. I love finding connections between my birthplace and my adopted home. We recently did a FarmChat program with students from Gilmore-City Bradgate Elementary. Through this program students get to take a virtual tour of a farm. They interact live with a farmer and get to ask questions, see a live feed of the animals, and get to have all of the interactions of a field trip (maybe minus the smells).


On this virtual tour, the farmer was describing his black Angus cattle and his operation. He feeds the animals up until they are market weight before selling the animals for butcher. He has very few cows and calves on his operation. Most of the cattle he raises are steers or market heifers that were born somewhere else. In fact, most of his cattle come from my home state – Montana!

Montana is known for raising a lot of cattle. The wide open grasslands are ideal for grazing animals. Montana has 2.5 cows for every person! Grass-fed beef extols a lot of positive benefits, but for taste reasons there are few things better than corn-finished beef. And Iowa is ideal for producing corn-finished or grain-finished beef. We’ve talked about the differences between grass-fed and grain-finished before. And we’ve discussed the effect that diet choice can have on the quality of the meat. But we haven’t talked about why cattle from Montana (or Wyoming, or elsewhere, even as far away as Florida) might come to Iowa.

The answer is simple economics. It costs less to ship cattle from one place to another than it costs to ship feed from one place to another.

Consider that a cow will consume between 1.8% and 2.3% of its body weight in feed everyday. For an average 1,200 pound cow that would equate to 21 and 32 pounds of feed per day. That feed could be a mix of grass hay, alfalfa, corn silage, corn, soybeans, wheat straw, or a variety of other ingredients. Corn and soybeans mixed in rations have been shown to provide quick weight gain and ultimately lead to marbling of the meat which gives steaks added flavor. To grow an animal from 500 lbs. to finish weight, they might be on feed for 170 – 200 days.

Let’s assume that we wean calves at 500 lbs. Weaned animals are separated from their mothers to convert to a diet that doesn’t include milk. The process of raising weaned animals to a weight that is full-grown and ready for market is called finishing. To finish the animals they need to be raised from 500 lbs. to 1,200 lbs. Their diet is going to change as they grow with more and more corn being added to the ration as they get closer to the 1,200 pound mark. Over that time period (170-200 days after weaning) we will use approximately 50 bushels of corn. There are 56 pounds per bushel, so roughly 2,800 pounds of corn per animal. So farmers are faced with a choice: Ship a 500 pound animal or ship 2,800 pounds of corn. It becomes easy to see that it would be cheaper and more cost efficient to ship a 500 pound animal to the feed rather than shipping 2,800 pounds of feed to the animal.

Iowa is the number one producer of corn in the United States. Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, and a handful of other Midwestern states are known for raising and finishing cattle because of this access to feed that the cattle love so much – corn. So cattle born all over the United States come to Iowa feedlots to be finished on corn. This finishing gives the meat its distinctive taste and quality.

cow eating grass 2.JPGSo this May, help celebrate Beef Month with a nod to the process that makes use of the most efficient process of producing beef – breeding them in places like Montana and then finishing them in Iowa. Sure, Iowa has plenty of cow-calf operations and you can see calves all over the state this time of year. But just as many farm operations focus and specialize on the finishing process so that they can produce high quality beef.


Science 101: Germination

germination stages

Seeds are amazing. Although they might appear to be tiny lifeless objects, seeds are powerful living things just waiting for the right conditions to do their thing! Each seed contains exactly what it needs and is designed specifically for the job it must do. All seeds have the same mission. To germinate and grow into a plant that will produce more seeds.

It is important for farmers, and gardeners, to understand the science of seed germination so they can maximize yields while efficiently using resources.

So, what exactly is germination? And how does it work? Let’s explore these questions and others.

What is germination?

In simple terms, it is the process of a seed developing into a plant. Germination occurs below ground, before the stem and leaves appear above the soil.


How does germination work?

To understand the process, you’ll need know the main parts of a seed and their function.

All fully developed seeds contain three basic parts, the embryo, endosperm and seed coat. The embryo is the part of the seed that develops into a plant. It contains the embryonic root (radical), embryonic stem (epicotyl and hypocotyl), and one or two seed leaves (cotyledons).

structure and fuction of dicot and monocot seeds - lumenlearning.com

Structure of Seeds (Source: Lumen Learning)

The endosperm contains the starch or stored energy for the developing embryo. The endosperm is the largest part of the seed and packed around the embryo. The seed coat is the outer layer that protects the seed’s internal structures.

The first stage of germination, called imbibition, occurs when the seed is exposed to water. The seed absorbs water though its seed coat. As this happens, the seed coat softens.

Next, water triggers the seed to begin converting starch to sugar. This provides energy for the embryo during germination.


More water is then absorbed and the seed’s cells start to elongate and divide. The radicle, or primary root, is usually the first part of embryo to break through the seed coat. It grows downwards to anchor the seed in place and absorb water and nutrients from the soil.

Next, the shoot and seed leaves emerge from the seed coat. The process and order depends on type of seed. Monocot and dicot seeds are structurally different, which affects how they germinate.

Soon the shoot will emerge from the soil. The seed tissue will diminish as the plant’s roots, stems, and leaves develop.

What do seeds need to germinate?

All seeds need water, oxygen, and the proper temperature to germinate.

The soil temperature must be warm enough so seeds can germinate, but not so hot as to damage the seed. Cold soil temperatures can cause seeds to remain dormant, increasing their vulnerability to diseases and insect damage. Temperature requirements vary between species. Soybeans, for example, need a minimum soil temperature of 50 °F for germination, but 77°F is optimum.


Water triggers germination to start and is needed throughout the germination process. Soil should be moist, but not saturated with water. Some seeds require more water than others. The critical soil moisture level for corn is 30%, while soybeans need soil that it at least 50% moist in order for germination to occur. That’s because beans absorb more water. Beans take in two to five times their weight in water, while corn only absorbs about 1.5 times its weight.

Oxygen is found in the air we breathe, and in soil too! Oxygen is usually on the list of things plants need to grow. However, it’s not always included when discussing germination.

When a seed is exposed to the proper conditions, water and oxygen are absorbed through the seed coat and cause the embryo cells to enlarge. If there is not enough oxygen present, germination may not occur. The most common reason for a lack of oxygen is too much water in the soil due to over-watering or flooding.

Do seeds need light to germinate?

Sometimes, not usually. Most seeds do not require light for germination and germinate best in dark conditions. However, some seeds like carrots & some lettuce varities need light to germinate. The stimulus of light causes them to break dormancy and start germination once exposed to water and proper warmth. These seeds germinate best when planted on the soil surface or just barely covered with soil.

soybeans in field

Why does planting depth matter?

Although it may be tempting to plant seeds shallow so they emerge sooner, it is important to follow the recommended planting depth. Planting too shallow can result in insufficient soil moisture for germination or a weak root system. Planting seeds too deeply causes them to use all of their stored energy before reaching the soil surface. Like temperature and moisture, ideal planting depth varies by plant species. As a general rule of thumb, larger seeds can be planted deeper because they contain more stored energy to reach the soil surface than smaller seeds. Farmers consider other factors like soil type, planting time, and temperature when deciding how deep to plant.

Nearly everything we eat and most of what we use would not be possible without germination. Vegetables, grains and fiber crops are grown from seed. Meat, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that were fed seeds or plants that grew from seeds.

As you drive past fields of emerging crops this spring, think about the amazing science phenomenon happening before you.

– Cindy

Applying Pesticides. Why do They do That?

Think about the word pesticide for a minute. You may have heard different things about pesticides. What they are, what they aren’t, how they’re used, and so forth. Today, I’d like to walk through a few things about pesticides and help clarify their use.

First of all, a pesticide can be many different things. Pesticide is a blanket term used to refer to herbicides (weed killer), insecticides (insect killer), and fungicides (fungus killer), among other things. All of these things – weeds, bugs, and fungi – can hurt crops, and are therefore pests.

Since these three things can have such big impacts on crops, they are things that all farmers (organic and conventional) worry about. In order to control these pests, farmers use pesticides. A common misconception is that only conventional farmers use pesticides. In reality, both organic and conventional farms use pesticides. The difference with the two is what kind of pesticides they are. Conventional farmers can use any approved and commercially available pesticide. Organic farmers only use those pesticides that are not synthetic.

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Now, let’s talk a little about specific kinds of pesticides and their uses in agriculture. First, we have herbicides. Herbicides are used to kill weeds. This is important, because weeds compete with crops for space, water, and nutrients. Farmers work hard to provide the correct amount of space, water, and nutrients for their crops, and don’t want those resources to be wasted on weeds. Organic herbicides are generally non-selective, meaning they kill all plants. Some common organic herbicides are acetic acid, D-limonene (citrus oil), and copper sulfate. Conventional farmers have a few more options with weed control, and commonly use herbicides with glyphosate, 2,4-D, or atrazine.

With all herbicides, farmers need to pay attention to the instructions on the label, to make sure they use the correct amount of the chemical on the application area and follow other safety guidelines. Farmers also pay attention to the toxicity level, half-life, volatization, leaching, and rate of degradation of the chemicals. The properties of the various types of herbicides can get very complex, but each herbicide (organic and conventional) is subjected to testing from the EPA, the USDA, and the FDA to make sure they are safe and to set guidelines for use.

Some other ways farmers might control weeds include tillage, crop rotations, varying crop populations and row spacings, and flame weeding.

2015-08-13 09.42.19

This machine is called a sprayer. it has narrow, tall wheels to give clearance to tall crops so it can spray during the growing season. The large tank on the back of the sprayer holds mostly water with a specific amount of the pesticide that the farmer needs to apply.

Insecticides work a little differently than herbicides, because they target insects instead of plants. Insects can also impact crop yields, because certain types of insects can eat the crops. Some insects eat the stalk of the plant, causing it to fall over. Other types of insects eat the leaves so the plant is unable to photosynthesize and survive. Organic insecticides tend to be more expensive and less effective, according to PennState Extension, but some common ones are Bt products, azadirachtin products, and various soaps and oils. Depending on the type of crop and insect, some conventional insecticides include acephate, permethrin, and carbaryl.

Another tool conventional farmers have is the use genetically engineered seed. The Bt gene (that is used as an insecticide in organic agriculture) has been transferred into some crop species, meaning that the plant grows its own defense system against certain kinds of caterpillars without the farmer having to purchase, spray, or come in contact with other chemicals. Organic and conventional farmers can also use biological methods of controlling insects, or use crop rotations to break the insects’ life cycles. Insecticides, like herbicides, are overseen by the EPA, FDA, and USDA. The BLM and US Fish and Wildlife Service can also assess risks of pesticides to the environment.

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The boom on a sprayer can adjust to fold up, and to regulate height while spraying. By regulating height, the farmer can manage drift of the pesticide.


Lastly, fungicides are a type of pesticide that help to control diseases in crops. According to the American Phytopathological Society, fungi are the number one cause of crop loss worldwide. As an example, the Irish Potato Famine was caused by a type of water mold, and that was clearly devastating. Luckily, today we have agronomists that can scout for diseases, and fungicides to help control them. Some organic fungicides include sulfur, copper, and various oils. Some conventional fungicides that might be used in Iowa include Priaxor, Stratego, and Fortix.

Since fungi tend to grow when conditions are right (moisture and temperature), they can be more difficult to control without fungicides in an agricultural system. However, for plants in a greenhouse or in a home, it may be easier to adjust environments to avoid fungi growth. If you have seen crop seeds that have a different color coating on them, it’s possible that it was seed treated with a fungicide to help protect the seed from pathogens early in its life cycle.

In summary, all pesticides are not the same, certain types are used by both organic and conventional growers, and are diluted by a substantial amount before they are applied to a field. These pesticides are used to help crops stay alive and produce a good yield for the farmer to harvest.

Do you have other questions about pesticide use? Ask them in the comments, and you might get a whole blog answering your question!


Why My Kids Should Learn About Agriculture

I am a native of Iowa that did not grow up on a farm. I will be the first to admit that I was clueless as to the importance of agriculture. We had food on the table and in our refrigerator. I didn’t have to ask where it came from or if there was enough for the family. I can say that I really didn’t know where my food, fiber and fuel came from. I truly took a lot for granted.

Statistics say that most people today are three to four generations removed from the farm and they do not know where the food they eat comes from and really don’t know the importance of knowing anything about agriculture. Should I as an Iowan care?

  • Who are tomorrow’s influencers and decision makers:

The future of agriculture does depend on the next generation. As population grows, so does the need to be able to produce enough food to feed everyone. We need to be sure we are equipping young people with the skills and knowledge to make sound and informative decisions. The more we can teach students about where food comes from, how it is raised and if it is sustainable, the better decision makers they will become. According to the agriculture census, the average age of the American farmer is 58 years old, if this knowledge is not being passed to next generations, who will be farming tomorrow? It is vital to inspire, train and maintain a strong interest in agriculture, so we will be training and transitioning to a new younger generation of Iowan Farmers.

  • Job Markets of tomorrow:

Young people of today seek to get an education in a field of study where they will be able to find employment after a college degree is earned. Many Iowa kids have grown up on

oh the places youll go

or near farms, yet are unaware of the possibilities of what a degree in agriculture can offer them in the way of a job to do what they love to do. A degree in agriculture gives the knowledge and skills to offer students opportunities and many areas, such as: manage business, work in sales and food production, animal nutrition, plant genetics, land surveyor and journalism fields. Many young people work alongside their parents to take over the family farm, but there are many other opportunities to open doors for employment if working on the farm is not an option.

  • Introduction and exposure:

How early can students begin to learn and understand simple agriculture concepts? Children are eager to learn and understand at a very early age. We all eat. Helping very young students see the connections to farmers producing food that is healthy for us to eat is a great foundation. It helps young people develop an understanding about how food is grown and how farmers take care of the animal, the land and still provide healthy food to feed Iowans. Students learn that farmers have families and those families eat the food that is produced on the farm. These building blocks start making connections to food and farms, land and the need to always be learning.

  • They want to know & be involved

Oskaloosa Elem 2

Today’s youth want to know more about the food they eat. They are passionate about understanding and learning. Today’s technology savvy generation has so many possibilities right at their fingertips to make learning exciting and fun for kids of all ages. Farms use technology on the combines, in the barn and even on smart phones. Teachers can use computer programs and games to teach math, science, and so much more. We can even bring the classroom right into the barn with the farmer by way of FarmChat®. Farmchat® is a program that utilizes technology like Skype or Facetime to bring the farm experience into the classroom. Kids can see up close and personal and can ask questions, but they are never at risk of injury, because they are still safely seated at their desk.


Another fun and exciting way to use technology and excite the learner is Journey 2050. You can grow crops, raise livestock, craft and sell goods and engage with local and global partners as you level up. Feeding the world relies on balancing your economic, social and environmental sustainability so strive to be a leader. Along the way, real farmers from across the world will show you what they are doing on their farms. This is a great program to help kids start to really think about how we will sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050.

I have been blessed to be able to be part of Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and have learned so much in the past few years. I encourage you to connect with your teachers and see how they are equipping students today with real world needs of tomorrow. Let’s all be able to say we are agriculturally literate – an agriculturally literate person understands the relationship between agriculture and the environment, food, fiber and energy, animals, lifestyle, the economy and technology. We need to be part of a team to build interest and excitement for agriculture in Iowa and beyond. We’d love to have you join our team and advocate for agriculture.


Sheep Vocabulary

Baa Baa Black sheep, have you any wool? It’s spring time… and that means it’s lambing season. The grass is soon to green and the weather will begin to warm up and the ewes are ready to give birth to their baby lambs.

Growing up on a small family acreage, lambing season was by far my favorite time of year. There was always excitement awaiting the birth of the new baby lambs. We would go out to the barn multiple times a day to do chores and to make sure the ewes had everything they needed to have their lambs. It was always exciting to go out and hear a little “baa” and find a new lamb.

Let’s learn some Ovis aries (That’s the scientific name for sheep) vocabulary and breeds!


Ewe: A ewe is a female sheep and a young female sheep is called a ewe lamb.

Ram: A ram is an intact male sheep. He is able to reproduce when he is put in a pen with female ewes. A male lamb has reached its sexual maturity approximately 6-8 months after birth. Normally, one ram can breed between 30 – 35 ewes each breeding season.

Lamb: A lamb is a young sheep that is under one year of age. They typically have not produced an offspring yet.

Lambing: Lambing is the act of giving birth to a lamb. Sheep have a 145 day gestation period. That means that it takes 145 days from the time that fertilization takes place until the baby lamb is born. You can find a lambing calculator here. Spring lambing takes advantage of the ewe’s natural breeding cycle. The ewes are often bred between October and December for the lambs to be born between March and May. Spring lambs improve breeding outcomes and allows for better pasture utilization.

Lamb Vs. Mutton: Meat produced from young sheep under one year old is called lamb. Lamb is very mild and tender meat. Mutton is the meat from sheep that are more than one year old. Unlike lamb, mutton has a more intense flavor. Mutton is also less tender than lamb. 

Wool: The fiber that sheep grow is called wool. The wool from one sheep is called fleece. Each year a sheep can produce 2 to 30 pounds of wool depending on the breed. The wool is sheared from the sheep and collected to make yarn or blankets.

Nutrition: Sheep are ruminant animals. They have four-chambered stomachs. Because of the makeup of their stomachs, sheep are natural grazers. Their diet consists of forages like grass, hay, and silage. They can also consume grain like corn or pellets. Sheep love the taste of grain, it is like “candy” to them. Farmers must be careful and not overfeed grain to sheep because they can overeat and large amounts of lactic acid can build up in their rumen. This could be fatal for the sheep. It is important to introduce grain slowly to their diet to give time for the rumen to adjust to the new diet.


Polled Dorset
Photo By: Cgoodwin

Dorset: Dorset sheep originated in southern England. They were first imported to the US 1885. Dorset sheep are all white. They are medium sized. Dorsets are known for their ability to breed out of season and lamb up to two times a year. The Polled Dorset, without horns, is the most popular breed in the United States. Many 4-Hers start their 4-H sheep project with a Dorset ewe lamb.


lincoln sheep

Photo By: NLSBA

Lincoln: Lincoln sheep are considered to be one of the world’s largest breeds of sheep. They are an English breed. They produce heavy, long and lustrous fleece. The Lincoln breed is mainly used for wool production.  They were first brought to the United States in the 1800’s. Today, Lincoln sheep are quite rare in the United States.

rambouillet sheep

Photo By: OSU

Rambouillet: This large, rugged, and long-living breed is the foundation of most western range flocks. Rambouillet sheep flock well together, which is an important trait for range flocks. They are considered to be a dual-purpose breed which means they can be used for wool or meat production.

suffolk sheepSuffolk: The Suffolk breed is one of the most popular breeds of sheep in the United States. They originated from England and were brought to the US in 1888. They produce high quality market lambs. The Suffolk breed is the preferred for producing club lambs. The lambs grow fast and produce well-muscled carcasses. Suffolk rams are commonly used for crossbreeding programs because they produced lambs with lean, high-yield carcasses, and a rapid growth rate. Suffolk ewes are excellent mothers and produce plenty of milk for their offspring.

Laura with lamb

Me as a child checking on the baby lambs on my family’s acreage.

Happy lambing season from my farm to yours!