Sheep are ruminants, which means that they have a four-part stomach that allows them to extract nutrients from grasses and plants. This makes their digestive system very effective at extracting nutrients from their food. However, there are times when sheep need to be fed supplements in order to meet their nutritional needs. The size and nature of the sheep’s diet can have a major impact on its health.
Most sheep are kept on pasture and therefore the major part of the nutrients necessary for growth, reproduction, and wool growth must come from grazing. The quality of the feed eaten by sheep is usually not adequate to meet their nutritional requirements and therefore supplementation is necessary.
Sheep are naturally curious creatures and like to eat fibrous items like hay or alfalfa. They will quickly learn to eat treated grass if they don’t get enough greens in their diet and they’ll also learn that treats are available in the form of bread (which they enjoy even more than grass).
Nutritional Requirement of Sheep
Before deciding on the type of feed you will give your sheep, you need to understand their nutritional requirements. Water is the most important nutrient, and the rest of the nutrients include vitamins and minerals. In addition, it is important to avoid toxic plants. Sheep also require a minimum of 7% protein, so they must be fed a diet rich in protein. You can determine the optimum amount of protein by using a feed cost calculator. You can choose a mix based on the costs per protein and energy unit.
The nutritional requirements for sheep differ depending on their age, environment, genetic potential, the purpose of production, and stage of production. While the amount of protein varies among breeds, the requirements for each stage of development vary by breed. Young lambs and lactating ewes have the highest protein requirements.
Energy Requirement For Sheep
The amount of energy in a sheep’s diet affects its performance. Sheep’s main sources of energy are pasture and hay, but they also get energy from grains and soil seed. To increase wool production and meat production and reproduction, the sheep must be fed enough energy. If they are not getting enough energy, they will have trouble reproducing or even die.
Feeding a poor-quality diet to sheep may not provide enough energy for maintenance and production. The most energy is required during the first 8-10 weeks after giving birth to lambs, when lactation is heaviest. After this period, milk production decreases as the lambs become independent and start eating solid food. At that time, the ewe’s energy requirement returns to pre-lactation levels.
When assessing energy adequacy in sheep, it is important to use an appropriate method to calculate body condition scores. Body condition scores should be determined by palpating the amount of fat covering on the spinous processes and transverse processes in the lumbar region. The score ranges from 1 (emaciated) to 5 (severely obese). Most healthy productive ewes will have a score of 2 to 3.5. Sheep with a score of 1 to 2 should be examined and fed to attain a higher score; whereas those with a score >3.5 should be fed less. Dietary changes should be done slowly, and abrupt reduction in total energy intake should always be avoided, particularly in middle to late gestation.
Protein Requirement for Sheep
Good-quality forage and pasture can provide adequate protein to growing and mature sheep. A minimum of 7% dietary crude protein is needed for maintenance in most sheep. Protein requirements depend on the stage of production (growth, gestation, lactation, etc) and the health status of the animal. More protein may be needed to meet the nutrient requirements of pregnant or lactating ewes or sheep with a high internal parasite burden. If forage or pasture cannot meet the sheep’s protein needs, protein supplements, such as soybean meal, cottonseed meal, etc., may be necessary. Protein from oilseed meals or commercially blended supplements is good for sheep because it is low in fiber and palatability but high in energy, which makes it easier to use.
Protein is used to repair and build body tissues, build muscle, and renew skin, bones, organs, and glands. When young sheep grow at a rapid rate, they require a high amount of protein in their diet. A young lamb that fails to receive enough protein in its diet may suffer from stunted growth and will not produce enough wool for a humane profit. On the other hand, excessive protein can be costly. If dairy farmers have a limited budget for their farms, then it would be more cost-effective for them to purchase lower-quality feed than higher-quality feed.
Sheep can convert nonprotein nitrogen (such as urea, ammonium phosphate, and biuret) into protein in the rumen but possibly less efficiently than beef cattle. In lamb-finishing diets, the inclusion of alfalfa and a source of fermentable carbohydrates (eg, ground corn and milo) enhances nitrogen utilization.
Water Requirement for Sheep
Water is the most important nutrient for sheep. Water should be clean and contain minimal chemicals. The amount of water needed for sheep is dependent on several factors, including the animals’ age, stage of production, and temperature. Similarly, the amount of water needed by swine varies greatly. While most species require about the same amount of water for their entire lifetime, different species need more or less. Therefore, it is vital to provide an appropriate amount of clean, fresh water for all animals, regardless of their age or species.
Sheep need between 2.5-18L per day. Sheep generally consume 2-3 times the amount of water to dry feed. The National Research Council recommends at least 1 gallon of water per day for ewes on dry feed in winter and 1.5 gallons of water per day for ewes nursing lambs. Finishing lambs need a half-gallon daily. During the winter, water intake will drop by more than 50%. During this time, sheep can drink water from soft snow or forage. The dew point of grass can also be affected by the relative humidity of the weather. Aside from affecting the water intake, sheep’s health is affected by an inadequate supply of this vital nutrient. It is important to provide sufficient water for sheep in order to avoid diseases and ensure lambs grow properly.
A high-quality water source is critical for the health of your flock. If the water source is not clean and fresh, the animal may not be able to absorb the feed as much as it should, resulting in poor growth and a low milk yield. Water is the most important nutrient for sheep. However, there are a number of factors that can affect the quality of water a sheep consumes.
Vitamins and minerals are required
Sheep, goats, and other livestock require adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Minerals are available in blocks, licks, or loose forms. It is important to add a supplement to the ration to meet a sheep’s daily requirements. A good mineral mix should contain at least a third of the recommended daily value of these nutrients for the class of sheep. Supplements should be fed every day or every other day, depending on the type of feed.
Sheep require minerals for proper growth and health, including the major minerals sodium, chlorine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, and several trace elements. Phosphorus, sulfur, and calcium are major minerals that sheep require for optimal health and wool production. Sheep can get these minerals from natural water and mineral supplements.
Trace mineralized salt prevents deficiencies of sodium, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt, copper, iron, and zinc. Selenium should be included in rations or other supplements when selenium is deficient. Sheep diets also provide adequate amounts of potassium, iron magnesium sulfur, and manganese. However, the best way to monitor the iodine and cobalt status of ewes is to analyze liver biopsy tissue.
Salt is often used as a supplement to the diet of sheep to prevent mineral deficiencies related to sodium, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt, copper, iron, and zinc. Sheep need salt to develop economically, reproduce, and lactate. Mature sheep can consume approximately 9 grams of salt each day, while lambs require half this amount.
Sheep diets usually contain adequate amounts of vitamins A, D, and E. Under certain circumstances, however, supplements may be necessary. The B vitamins and vitamin K are produced by the sheep’s rumen microorganisms and are not necessary as supplements under normal conditions.
The amount of vitamins and minerals required by sheep depends on the type of pasture that they graze on. While minerals are found in soil, it is best to give sheep loose mineral blocks, which sheep can lick or gnaw on easily. They will know what to eat when they need them. A mineral block, like the block of a tablet, may contain too much powder for the sheep to eat.
Sheep also need vitamins A, D, and E. Although this vitamin is naturally present in the grass, sheep cannot store it, and they need to be supplemented every day. Poor quality hay and forage are often low in vitamins A and D. Vitamin D, on the other hand, must be added to the diet if the sheep have been housed indoors for two to four weeks. Commercial sheep minerals are typically formulated with added vitamins and minerals. In addition to these premixes, you can also add vitamin premixes to the total mixed ration.
Sheep Feeding Schedule: What To Feed
While sheep nutrition is similar to that of common livestock, there are a few differences in their dietary needs. Sheep are ruminants, meaning that the main part of their digestive system is made up of four chambers, or stomachs. Each chamber has a different function and bacteria that enable sheep to break down their food in a very specific way.
In this way, sheep’s nutritional needs are more complex than those of other mammals because they need a diverse diet that includes both forage and grain. Forage includes grasses and hay, and grain refers to corn or other grains. Because of the complexity of their digestive system, sheep will not eat just any type of food. They need a large variety of roughage in order to keep their digestive systems working properly. This roughage can be provided by grasses, weeds, shrubs, or woody plants.
Sheep prefer to graze in areas with plenty of grass and high-protein legume plants like clover and alfalfa, but they can also consume soybeans if they are crushed first. If sheep are unable to graze on pasture grasses due to wet weather conditions, they may need supplemental feed in order to stay healthy and produce milk for lambs or wool for sale at a good market price.
Young animals, especially lambs, have higher nutrient requirements than adults. The pregnant ewes also need more nutrients than the non-pregnant ones. In addition, the ewes in the late gestation period and lactation require more nutrients than those in the early stages. The high-producing animals such as the performance-tested rams and ewes need more nutrients than those with low production levels.
How Much Feed Should Sheep Eat per Day
In general, a sheep requires about 5% of its body weight in dry matter each day for maintenance. An average adult ewe of about 50 kg requires 1 kg of dry matter or 3.5 kg of green pasture containing 30% dry matter to keep it in good condition without any wool or lamb growth. The gestation period is divided into two phases: an early phase during which there is no increase in fetal weight and a late phase where fetal growth increases rapidly. During the late stage (after 90 days), an extra 300 g/day should be fed to sheep carrying single lambs while 500 g/day should be given to those carrying twins to ensure normal feto-placental development and the birth of normal-sized lambs.
Feeding sheep Fibre such as Hay
Fibre is an important requirement for all ruminant animals. Sheep require fiber in their diet for several purposes. Fiber helps in the proper functioning of the rumen of the sheep; this is essential for effective digestion and utilization of feed. Fibre often impacts the bulk effect in the sheep’s stomach, making it fill. Also, fiber improves the health of the rumen microorganisms, enhancing their multiplication and sustenance. Most importantly, fiber prevents constipation and allows easy passage of feed during the digestion process.
When deciding how much hay to feed your sheep, you need to take a few factors into account. First, you need to know how many pounds your sheep consume. This is because sheep nutrition is based on volume. You should also consider wastage. Buying the proper amount of hay can also help you reduce the amount of waste that your livestock produces. Also, you must know the life stage of your sheep. Some sheep can lose a significant amount of weight quickly, so you should get enough for their weight.
Not all hay is created equal, and sheep prefer fine-leafed hay that has plenty of leaves. Grass hay should be first-cut, because lambs are not as eager to consume late-cut hay, as it contains too much moisture. Also, avoid feeding late-cut hay, which is overly mature and will not provide the proper nutrition to your sheep. The same goes for mixed-cut hay.
Another factor that you need to consider is the price. As a sheep producer, you will need to pay the opportunity cost of hay. This cost is the amount of money that you would have earned from selling the hay, minus any other expenses. In addition, hay has a higher price than other feed sources, so it will be more expensive for you. Depending on where you live, you may be able to purchase a cheaper variety if you have to. You can even make more money selling the hay.
If you’re unsure of what type of hay to buy, you can always consult with your veterinarian. Sheep have unique nutritional needs and should be given a diet based on that. The best hay for sheep is one that has the right ratio of grass and legumes. If you’re unsure of which one is right for your sheep, consult your vet to make sure that you’re feeding them the right amount.
Feeding sheep molasses
One easy way to supply lambs with fermentable energy and sugar is to feed them molasses. As with any well-balanced diet, this sugar can enhance the rumen’s function, increase dry matter intake, and reduce the risk of twin lamb disease. The benefits of feeding sheep molasses to ewes are significant. Here are some reasons why. All molasses are not equal, however.
Molasses is a common ingredient in feed blocks and is highly palatable to grazing animals. It is important to remember that molasses has significant sulfate content. Therefore, it should be used cautiously. Molasses should be fed at a rate of 20% or less in the ration, or at a level that is well tolerated by the animal. If your flock consumes large quantities of molasses, it may cause respiratory tract irritation.
Because molasses has little fat-soluble vitamin content, supplementation with other nutrients is necessary. Molasses, however, contain a modest amount of essential amino acids. Molasses are a rich source of water-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A and D, and contain a small quantity of biotin. This antioxidant is highly bioavailable and improves reproduction parameters in sows and pigs. Biotin also reduces linoleic acid in pig fat.
Another advantage of molasses in sheep diets is that it is an inexpensive source of fermentable energy. When molasses are combined with other liquid feeds, it creates a high-quality, palatable, and nutritious feed. It has a low cost due to its low raw materials and production technology. Furthermore, there are no drying costs, which can compromise the quality of byproducts. However, the disadvantages are related to storage and conservation.
Toxic plants Sheep Should Not Eat
Poisonous plants can cause serious problems for livestock, including livestock that feeds on them. There are ways to minimize exposure to toxins, such as managing the timing of grazing in poisonous areas. By avoiding grazing in areas with the highest levels of toxins, producers can reduce their animals’ risks of poisoning. A comprehensive plan for managing the risks associated with poisonous plants should be developed, based on the species and location of the plants.
While there are few plants toxic to sheep, some species are more harmful than others. Mountain laurel, azalea, and rhododendron are all poisonous to sheep, and even small amounts may result in fatalities. Wild cherry is another plant that can cause poisoning in livestock, and its leaves contain cyanide. If your sheep eat this plant, they will likely suffer convulsions, anorexia, and lethargy.
In addition to acorns and tender shoots, oak tree poisoning can cause severe illness. Affected animals can experience anorexia, diarrhea, and dehydration, and in severe cases, they can even die. Likewise, mycotoxins, substances produced by molds, are also toxic to sheep. Make sure your storage areas are cool and dry. Despite their popularity, sheep can eat just about anything, but try to limit their dietary exploration and stick to hay and grain.
Toxic plants in Oregon rangelands can cause serious harm to livestock. Managing them can minimize losses. If you’re worried about poisonous plants, work with local veterinarians and Extension agents to understand how to manage them. They may also be able to treat affected animals. In addition to proper fencing and management of weeds, livestock producers should focus on the general improvement of rangelands. There are many ways to minimize the impact of poisonous plants on livestock.
In general, sheep are fed soybean meal and alfalfa pellets to meet their protein needs. Meat and bone meal is illegal in most countries. Legumes are an intermediate source of protein for sheep.
1 thought on “How To Feed Sheep: Nutrients Required, Schedule & More”
Sheep have lower front teeth, no upper incisors. It has been my experience working with sheep that are allowed block mineral ( red) or white have been found to break their incisors , this is is termed “broken mouth”. Hence, free choice loose mineral vitamin mixes are my recommendation; nutritionally balanced based on forges fed… no copper!