Insights Livestock

Farm Babe: How GMOs improve livestock fertility


GMOs improve livestock fertility!

OK, now that I have your attention, let’s just say … not necessarily GMOs. Whether livestock feed is sourced organically, GMO, or non-GMO, it doesn’t matter. They all can improve livestock fertility and are overall nutritionally equivalent, however GMO grains usually test at a higher quality while producing more crop on less land generally using fewer resources.

On our farm, we are smack dab in the middle of lambing season. It’s one of the busiest yet most adorable times of the year, but feeding corn to the pregnant ewes (female sheep) is very important for their health. It’s a process called “flushing.”

The point of flushing is to help some sheep gain a little weight right before breeding. We feed around one pound of corn per day per head, which gives them added energy. Flushing works best on thinner or older ewes, but it has been an important component to increase lambing percentage. It basically increases the number of eggs that the ewes ovulate. Corn and other crops such as barley that are fed to sheep contain important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients which help the animal thrive. Having a high energy level is important not only for pregnancy, but also maintaining body heat during our cold winter months in Iowa.

For us, we harvest the corn and turn the ewes out to pasture with the rams right after that since our sheep cycle in the fall. The area is fenced in, but they eat all the leftover fodder from the corn plant — leaves, stalks, leftover corn kernels, etc. It’s a win-win since they eat the plant and corn the combine missed, while their manure helps to fertilizer the ground for next years crop.

Last year for lambing time we had a lot of sheep give birth to single lambs, but usually they can give birth to twins. The beginning part of the five-month gestation is critical to lamb development, so this year we decided to up their corn intake from last year, and it’s working. So far we have more twins this year than last year. No triplets yet, but we are waiting and hopeful! Of my 55 or so ewes, several of them will “ewe”sually have triplets.

The reason I bring up this topic of flushing is because there are a lot of myths out there about feeding grain to livestock, but of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Having a varied, balanced diet is important for animal health and grains play a very important part. Why, just look at how much my sheep love GMOs. We shake the grain bucket and they certainly come running.

Myths about feeding grain to livestock usually come from grass-fed food companies that would like people to believe their methods are superior so they can sell a product. Or the myths may come from activists or mommy bloggers, folks who are not qualified to speak on the subject or have never worked on a farm. But if corn was bad for sheep, we wouldn’t feed it to them! Common sense. Everything a farmer does is an important science and done for a reason. Cheers to having more lambs this year partly thanks to corn.


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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