Jeff SemlerExtension Educator, AGNR Washington County SMALL RUMINANT PROGRAM
Not nutrients Contain nutrients Source of nutrients
While forages are the most "natural" diet for small ruminants and usually the most economical, a their nutritional requirements can be met by feeding a variety of feedstuffs. The rumen is a very adaptable organ. Feedstuffs can substitute for one another so long as nutritional requirements are being met. Avoid creating dangerous nutritional imbalances .
Do not compromise the health of the rumen. Feeding programs should take into account animal requirements, feedstuff availability, and cost. Nutrient requirements vary by species, age, size (weight), and stage of production.
Dry Forages & Roughages Pasture, forbs, and browse Silage or Haylage (ensilage) Concentrates (grain) By-product feeds Vitamins and minerals Feed Additives Probiotics
Dry Forages & Roughages Feeds that are cut and cured Usually hay Sometimes straw or fodder
It is usually the primary source of nutrients for sheep during the winter months or dry season when most forage plants are not actively growing. Hay varies tremendously in quality, and while hay quality can be affected by plant species, quality is determined mostly by the maturity of the plants when they were harvested for hay.
Proper harvesting and storage is necessary to maintain nutritional quality of hay. Hay that is stored outside without cover deteriorates rapidly in quality. The only way to know the "true" nutritive value of hay is to have it analyzed at a forage testing laboratory. A list of certified forage testing laboratories can be found at www.foragetesting.org.
Hay is a moderate source of protein and energy. While good grass hays usually have as much energy as legume hays, legumes have 50 to 75 percent more protein and three times as much calcium. A good quality grass hay will be a better source of nutrients than a low or medium-quality legume hay. The important thing about hay is to feed the right hay at the right time.
There is no "best" hay. From an economical standpoint, the "best" hay is the hay that provides nutrients at the lowest cost. Palatability is important to the extend that the more hay sheep refuse the higher cost it will be. A decent grass hay is usually more than adequate for females during maintenance and in early to mid- gestation. It almost always meets the needs of mature males and wethers. A mixed grass-legume hay can be fed to females in late gestation to meet their requirements for calcium.
A pure legume hay should be saved for the lactation diet due to its higher level of protein and calcium. On the other hand, if a grass hay is fed during late gestation or lactation, it may be necessary to provide an additional source of calcium to pregnant females and supplemental calcium and protein to lactating females.
Grasses LegumesBermudagrass AlfalfaBromegrass Birdsfoot TrefoilKentucky bluegrass CowpeasNative grasses LespedezaOrchardgrass PeanutReed canarygrass Red CloverRyegrass SoybeanTall Fescue VetchTimothy White Clover/Ladino
Pasture, range, forbs, and browse are usually the primary and most economical source of nutrients In many cases, all that a ruminant needs to meet its nutritional requirements. For example, from the time a female weans her young through her first 15 weeks of pregnancy, forage will likely meet all her nutritional needs.
Pasture is high in energy, protein, and palatability when it is in a vegetative state. However, it can have a high moisture content when it is rapidly growing, and sometimes it can be difficult for high-producing animals to eat enough grass to meet their nutrient requirements. Vegetation with high moisture content can also cause loose bowels.
As pasture plants mature, their palatability, digestibility, and nutritive value decline, thus it is important to rotate and/or clip pastures to keep plants in a vegetative state. Forbs often have higher digestibility and crude protein levels than grasses at similar stages of maturity.
Sheep and goats are excellent weed eaters and will often choose to eat weeds over grass. Because of their preference for weeds, they are often used to control invasive or noxious weeds, such as leafy spurge, knapweed, and kudzu.
Silage (or ensilage) is a generic term for livestock feed that is produced by the controlled fermentation of high moisture herbage. Silage can be made from forage or grain crops. It has been successfully fed to sheep; however, special attention must be paid to quality, as moldy silage can cause listeriosis or "circling disease." Listeriosis is an occasional cause of abortion in ewes.
As with fresh forage, the a high-producing animal often cannot consume enough high moisture silage to meet its nutritional needs. Silage is typically fed on large farms, due to the need for storage and automated feeding equipment. It can be a more economical source of feed than traditional feeds. For small and medium sized flocks, silage bags make silage feeding a possibility.
It is becoming more popular to feed balage to sheep.
It is oftentimes necessary to feed concentrates to provide the nutrients that forage alone cannot provide. This is particularly true in the case of high-producing animals. There are also times and situations where concentrates are a more economical source of nutrients than forages. There are two types of concentrate feeds: carbonaceous (energy) and proteinaceous (protein).
“Energy" feeds are high in total digestible nutrients (TDN), but tend to be low in protein (8-11 percent protein). The most common energy feeds are cereal grains: corn, barley, wheat, oats, milo (grain sorghum), and rye.
It is not necessary to process grains (grind, crack, roll, or crimp) except for animals that are less than six weeks of age and lack a functioning rumen. In fact, whole grain diets are healthier for the rumen because they require the animal to do its own grinding of the feed. Whole, raw soybeans may also be limit fed.
While cereal grains are the most concentrated source of energy, they are high in phosphorus and low in calcium. Feeding a diet that is high in phosphorus and low in calcium can cause urinary calculi in wethers and intact males. Inadequate calcium can lead to milk fever in pregnant or lactating ewes. Excessive intake of grain or sudden intake of grain can cause numerous digestive and metabolic problems including enterotoxemia (overeating disease), acidosis (grain overload), feedlot bloat, and polioencephalomalacia. The rumen always needs time to adjust to a higher concentrate diet.
“Protein feeds" contain high levels of protein (over 15 percent) and are usually plant-derived. Examples include soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and fish meal. Ruminant-derived meat and bone meal cannot (by law) be fed to other ruminants. Protein quantity is generally more important than protein quality (amino acid content) in ruminant livestock because the microorganisms in the rumen manufacture their own body protein.
Livestock do not store excess protein; it is burned as energy or eliminated (as nitrogen) by the kidneys. Overfeeding protein will not usually increase productivity or carcass quality. Since parasites often cause blood loss in small ruminants, higher levels of protein in the diet enable the animal to mount a greater immune response to parasites, especially the blood-sucking barber pole worm.
Urea is not a protein supplement, but is a source of nonprotein nitrogen (NPN) that rumen bacteria can use to synthesize protein. NPN should be used only in conjunction with high- energy feeds such as corn. Urea, which is 45 percent nitrogen and has a crude protein equivalent of 281 percent, should not supply over one-third of the total nitrogen in a diet.
Many feed companies offer "complete“ feeds. Usually to be fed with hay or pasture. These are textured (sweet) or processed (pelleted) feed products which have been balanced for the needs of livestock of a particular species, age, and production class. Complete feeds should not be mixed with other grain, because this will "unbalance" them. For example, adding corn to a complete feed will alter the Ca:P ratio and could result in urinary calculi.
Pelleted rations have an advantage in that the animals cannot sort feed ingredients. Sorting can be a problem when animals are on self- feeders and allowed to eat all they want. Pelleted diets are ideal for free choice self-feeding. Complete feeds come in 50 or 100 lb. sacks and tend to be more expensive than home-made concentrate rations. For small producers, inexperienced shepherds, and 4-H members, commercial feeds are usually recommended.
To help control feed costs, producers can mix their own simple rations by combining various feed ingredients, such as corn, soybean meal, and minerals. It is possible to get commercial pelleted supplements that contain vitamins and minerals, as well as high levels of protein (34-40%). These supplements can easily be combined with whole grains or by-product feeds to create a balanced concentrate ration.
There are numerous by-products that can be fed. Most by-products are available as a result of processing a traditional feed ingredient to generate another product. For example, corn gluten meal is a by-product of the corn milling process. Soybean hulls are a by-product of soybean processing for oil and meal. Can often be economical sources of nutrients for sheep; however, they need be analyzed to determine their nutrient content.
Choosing the right mineral supplement can be very tricky. Small Ruminants require macro and micro (trace) minerals and you need to know what minerals are deficient (or excess) in your area and in your feedstuffs. Mineral supplements range from trace mineralized salt (TMS) fortified with selenium to complete mineral mixes containing all of the macro and micro minerals required. Granular or "loose" forms of minerals are preferred to blocks. Blocks are hard on the teeth and consumption may be less. Mineral feeders should be full of fresh mineral, placed in readily available areas and protected from the weather.
A compound added to the ration for a purpose other than to supply nutrients. Various feed additives can be utilized to improve the health and performance. Sub-therapeutic antibiotics in rations can help to prevent enterotoxemia and respiratory disease. Lasalocid (Bovatec®) and Monensin (Rumensin®) are ionophores that can be added to mineral mixes or complete rations.
Ionophores improve feed utilization and gain in cattle by altering rumen fermentation. They are also coccidiostats. They kill coccidia, primarily during the sporozoite stage. Lasalocid (Bovatec®) is labeled as a coccidiostat for confined sheep. Rumensin® is approved for use in goats and cattle.
Probiotics are just the opposite of antibiotics. They are living organisms of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics may improve animal performance by keeping livestock healthy and improving their digestion. Yeast is a probiotic and has been incorporated into livestock rations. Ammonium chloride is often added to rations to prevent urinary calculi (kidney stones).
Feedstuffs for sheep and lambs http://www. sheep101.info/201/feedstuffs.html By-Products and Regionally Available Alternative Feedstuffs http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/dairy/as1180w.htm