Article Index "Sheep and Goat Nutrition Guideline" Article Index

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By: M. Lema, Dept. of Food & Animal Science
Alabama A & M University, Normal AL 35762
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Sheep Nutrition
Pastures /forages are the cheapest feed sources for both sheep and goat production. Therefore, we should use them to the fullest extent. Establish a grazing system using both cool-season species such as ladino clover-orchard grass mixture or fescue-ladino clover mixture and warm season grasses such as Tifton-44 bermudagrass. For winter feeding, planting small grains (wheat, rye, oats and barley) in combination wit crimson clover or arrow leaf clover reduces feed cost and the need for stored forage (hay, silage). Plant pasture systems that will allow maximum grazing days. Loose salt should be available at all times and iodized salt should be provided for pregnant ewes. Energy is most critical for brood ewes. The following are suggested rations for ewes weighing 130-140 pounds. Less supplemental feed will be necessary if some limited grazing is provided.

General Feeding Recommendations for Ewes

1. Dry ewes and ewes in early pregnancy:

  • Good grass, grass-legume or small grain pasture
  • Good grass or grass legume hay (3.5-4.5 lb)
  • Alfalfa, lespedeza, or clover hay, 3.5 lb
  • Corn silage (6-7 lb) and protein supplement (0.2-0.3 lb) and ground limestone at 0.04 lb
  • Good legume hay (2-2.5 lb) and corn silage (3-4 lb)

    2. Ewes in late pregnancy (last 4-6 weeks of gestation):
    same rations as in the first recommendation but with the addition of 0.5-0.75 lb of grain

    3. Ewes nursing lambs:

  • Good grass-legume or small grain pasture. With pure grass, limited grazing, multiple lambs and/or thin ewes, feed 1 lb grain/ewe/day.
  • Good legume or grass-legume hay with 1-1.5 lb grain
  • Good grass hay (4 lb) with 0.25 lb protein supplement, 1- 1. 5 lb of grain
  • Corn silage (6-8 lb), 0.3-0.4 lb protein supplement, 1-1.5 lb grain, and 0.04 lb ground lime- stone
  • Good legume hay (2 lb), 4-5 lb corn silage, 0.2 lb protein supplement, and 1 lb grain.

    4. Breeding ewes:
    Flush breeding ewes by providing additional concentrate starting a few weeks before breeding season.

    Feeding and Managing Lambs

  • Start lambs on creep immediately (1 to 2 weeks of age).
  • The following are examples of Lamb Rations
  • Small Grain or Grass - Non-Legume
  • Legume Pasture Pasture______________________
  • Ground Yellow corn 83% Ground Yellow Corn 76%
  • Soybean Meal (50% protein) 15% Soybean Meal (50% protein) 12%
  • Salt 1 % Alfalfa Meal 10%
  • Ground Limestone 1% Salt 1%
  • Ground Limestone 1%
  • Calculated crude protein 15.65 % 15.10
  • Cost per 100 lb $ 8.96 $ 8.12
  • A vitamin premix (2,000,000 I.U. of Vitamin A, 500,000 I.U. of Vitamin D, and 35,000 I.U. of Vitamin E per ton of feed) provides protection against stiff lamb problems occasionally encountered with early weaned lambs.
  • Make certain the lamb diet contains approximately 15% protein. Also, continue lambs on the same diet when weaned. Do not change the diet at weaning.
  • Market lambs as they reach 120 to 130 pounds.

    Goat Nutrition
    A balanced feeding program for goats should contain forages, hay, gains and browse and shrub plants. Relative to feeding the breeding herd, young kids and yearlings keep in mind the following points:

      1. A ration that is modified whenever necessary to meet the requirements of the animals during different stages of their reproductive cycle is usually more economical.

      2. The amount of feed allowed should be accurately adjusted to the requirements of the animal at each stage of the reproduction cycle so that feed is not wasted by feeding more than the animal will convert into the product it is producing nor growth or production handicapped by insufficient feed.

      3. Feeds of similar nutritive values/properties can be interchanged in the ration as price relation- ships warrant, in order to obtain each essential nutrient from the cheapest available source.

    Feeding the Doe
    A. Before Breeding

    A dry doe that has recently been weaned from her kids can be maintained on good quality pasture or fed high quality hay depending on her physical condition at weaning. Very thin animals that are adversely affected by the stress of lactation (especially those that give birth to twin and triplets) may need some supplementation (extra grain and/or hay) in addition to forage to adequately prepare them for the ensuing breeding season. Thin does and yearlings should be flushed before the start of, and continued throughout the breeding season. It may be accomplished either by providing more lush pasture or by feeding grain.

    B. After Breeding/First Month of Pregnancy
    After breeding, keep the does on the same high plane of nutrition that was given during flushing to ensure proper embryo development.

    C. The Second and Third Months of Pregnancy
    Feed adequate levels of high quality forage and reduce grain supplementation to a minimum (1/4 lb. cracked corn/head/day may be adequate) or feed no grain.

    D. Last Six Weeks of Pregnancy
    Feed additional grain (3/4 - 2 lb./head/day), particularly if pasture availability is limited and if animals have a history of multiple births; amount of supplementation will vary with the quality and quantity of available forage. Young replacement does being bred for the first time will need additional supplementation so that they can continue to grow and develop during this period. Feed to allow the pregnant animals to have access to the best available pastures.

    E. Lactation
    Generally, grass alone (except if it is highly nutritious) cannot adequately meet the energy requirements of a lactating doe, particularly in instances where the doe has 2-3 kids nursing. Under nutrition at this stage can cause reduced milk production, low kid growth rates and excessive weight loss as the doe mobilizes/ breaks down her body reserves for milk production. Therefore does should be fed a 14-15% crude protein ration. The amount of grain to be fed will depend on litter size, forage availability, (quality and quantity), type of feed, its digestibility and chemical composition.

    Feeding the Young Kid

  • 1. Introduce solid feed as early as possible.
  • 2. Feed approximately 1/4 lb./head/day of a 16% CP feed, together with a little corn.
  • 3. Feed weaner kids (60 days old) approximately 1/2 lb. of 16% crude protein feed with or without good gazing.
  • 4. Increase supplementation to 1/2 lb. - 3/4 lb. per head per day for replacement breeding stock and even further, to 1 lb. per head per day for market males. This will facilitate faster post-weaning growth rates. However, the economics of supplementation must be borne in mind.

    Feeding Yearling Does (Replacement Females)

  • 1 . Keep the best pastures and forages for yearlings.
  • 2. When good pastures and high quality forages are available, concentrate feeding is not essential to the growing yearling doe. However, concentrate feeding can increase growth rate, decrease the age at first breeding and increase overall lifetime performance.
  • 3. Concentrate feeding may reach 1/2 - 1 lb. per head/day depending on quality of roughage. A 12- 14% crude protein ration would suffice.

    Feeding the Breeding Buck

  • 1. When not being used for breeding, good pasture alone will maintain bucks in good health.
  • 2. A buck needs only 12-14% protein in diet.
  • a. Two weeks before and during breeding season gradually build up to 1 lb. of concentrate of protein supplement twice per day or 2 lb./head/day.
  • b. Reduce concentrate after breeding season to 1 lb./head/day.
  • c. Avoid excessive weight gain when buck is inactive.
  • About the author: No information is available.

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