Sheep and goats are some of the most important farm animals. Whether for fiber, meat, or milk, sheep, and goats are raised all over the world. Some of us even keep goats as pets. It is fun watching them prance around and butt heads with the family dog on viral videos. But this lesson isn’t about pets, it’s about the basics of how sheep and goats are raised in larger operations.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to describe the feeding and management of the sheep and goat industry around the world because of the many interacting factors such as production system, management system within each production system, the genetic potential of the breeds, biological constraints, etc.
The systems of sheep and goat production can be divided into the following categories:
- Meat production from sheep and goats: as the main product and wool, fibre, and skin as byproducts.
- Fine wool production from sheep and goats: as the main products and meat as a byproduct.
- Dual-purpose sheep and goats: with the main emphasis on milk or meat production or milk and meat given equal importance.
The Nutrition Of Goats And Sheep
Studies on the foraging behavior and the dietary habits of sheep and goats (type and parts of plants they eat, their tolerance to saline or bitter feed and saline water, the distance of traveling to find food, the frequency of drinking, and their walking ability) can provide assistance to range managers for making the right management decisions and improving sheep and goat performance (Malechek & Provenza, 1983; Squires, 1984).
Also, goats have been found more efficient in the digestion of crude fibre and the utilization of poor roughages than sheep (Malechek & Provenza, 1983; Squires, 1984; Gihad et al.)
Possible physiological and behavioral factors for this ability of the goat have been indicated (Louca et al., 1982). But, with medium and good quality forage and adequate feed availability goats apparently are similar to sheep (Malechek & Provenza, 1983; Huston, 1978).
Nutrient Requirements of Goat and Sheep
It is extremely difficult to present data collected from all over the world on the nutrient requirements of sheep and particularly of goats. Therefore, as a general guide, the recommended minimum requirements of sheep (NRC, 1975) and goats (NRC,1981) are suggested.
The energy requirements of sheep and goats are similar according to NRC (1981). For dry non-pregnant animals, the maintenance requirements are 0.42 MJME/kg0.75. During the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, energy requirements increase by 15%, providing also for a slight weight gain, and during the last stages of pregnancy, they increase by 80–100% compared with dry animals.
For each kg of sheep milk (6% fat) and goat milk (4% ), 7.5MJME and 5.2MJME are required, respectively. The requirements for digestible crude protein range from 2.3 – 2.8g /kg 0.75 for sheep and goats for maintenance, increasing during the last stages of pregnancy by 80–100%. For each kg of goat milk or sheep milk, 45–70g or 60–90g digestible crude protein are required, respectively.
Nutrition And Reproduction Of Goats And Sheep
Inadequate nutrition, particularly of energy, depressed the reproductive performance of extensively (H.F.R.O.,1979) or intensively managed sheep (Orskov, 1982) and of Indian breeds of goats (Sachdeva et al., 1973). Sexual maturity of sheep and goats is advanced by good feeding (Owen, 1976) and the energy stimulates oestrus activity within the normal breeding season, ovulation rate, fertilization and survival of ova, and the maintenance of the resultant embryos to term as viable lambs (Gunn, 1967).
Body condition at mating, achieved over a longer period i.e. the period between one reproductive cycle and the next, has a greater effect on ovulation rate and barrenness than flushing (i.e. increasing the level of nutrition in the immediate pre-mating and mating period) (Owen, 1976; Gunn & Doney, 1975). High producing dairy ewes or goats, require a dry period to achieve maximum prolificacy.
Also, the level of feeding after weaning of female lambs or kids intended for replacements depends on the age at mating. Usually, lambs or kids are mated for the first time when they reach 60–80% of their mature weight.
This weight is accomplished with proper feeding and management at the age of 8–10 months in France, Norway, and Cyprus (Morand-Fehr, et at., 1982; Skjevdal, 1982; Maurogenis & Constantinou, 1983). In France (Blancnart & Sauvant) and Norway (Skjevdal, 1982) tables have been published with recommendations of dietary allowances for breeding female kids at the age of 7–9 months of age.
Crops Suitable for Feeding Sheep And Goats
- Feeding of lambs/kids (birth to three months)
- Legume fodder crops
- Grass fodders
- Concentrate feed ingredients
- Feeding schedule for different age of sheep and goats
- Tree fodders
Management System of Goat and Sheep
Within the meat and dual production systems, the following management systems can be identified:
- Intensive (grazing on improved pastures, zero grazing, conserved forage, crop residues, and increased use of concentrates).
- Extensive (migratory, free-range, pasture, or range grazing).
- Semi-intensive (pasture or range grazing, use of supplementary feeding mainly on crop residues and conserved roughage).
- Tethering (small size flocks of 2–10 animals). This is a subsistence family system and the animals live on kitchen remnants crop residues, grazing near inhabited areas and other supplementary feed).
Operations and Facilities Used In Goat and Sheep Production
Sheep and goats are raised in various operations for different purposes. For example, some producers specifically breed and raise sheep for the quality of their wool and not how tasty they are. Others raise sheep specifically for slaughter, such as during religious festivals or for lamb chops. Goats can also be raised for meat, but they are also often grown for milk production, in order to sell the goat milk itself, or the uniquely pungent but tasty goat cheese.
The facilities that are used to raise these two animals also vary. Some of these animals are crowded, by the thousands, into wide pens where they are raised, fed, and watered. Others are let loose on pasture land, only to later be rounded up by dogs and cowboys. It all depends on the number of animals raised, the environment they are in, and the goal of the producer.
Compared to sheep, goats don’t like to find themselves on pastureland that has only one kind of plant. Instead of that, they prefer to graze on land that has numerous plant species. Both goats and sheep are very picky about the water they get: clean, freshwater is very important for both of these species.
This is doubly true if these animals are pregnant or lactating, as water intake can more than double during these times. Animals that eat dry hay as opposed to lush pasture, which contains more water, will need to drink more water as well. Other factors that increase water consumption in these animals are increased heat, heavy mineral intake, and the consumption of high-protein diets.
Sheep and goats are ruminants. Ruminants are animals that have a stomach system made up of four compartments. These animals regurgitate undigested food from the largest compartment, called the rumen, and chew their cud while resting. Cud is food that has been regurgitated from the rumen in order to be chewed another time. Both animals are herbivores or animals that eat plants.
Most of the energy derived by sheep and goats comes from the breakdown of the roughage they eat. Roughage is a term that refers to feeds such as grass and hay. Energy levels may also need to be supplemented by way of feeding the animal cereal grains like corn, oats, and barley. This is namely true during high energy stages, such as lactation, or the production of milk.
Feeding adequate amounts of protein in both of these animals is very important because low protein levels will lead to poor growth, decreased fiber production, and even death. Many factors must be kept in mind with respect to how much protein should be fed and where it’s sourced from.