Scientific Farm Animal Production
Quiz 31 :
Feeding and Managing Sheep and Goats
The sheep enterprises are of 3 types - farms flocks, range flocks and lamb feeders. Any of these enterprises needs certain infrastructure for an efficient management. The requirements are listed below. Pasture : It is the place where the animal is sent for grazing. Pastures can grow different types of plants. It can have a mixture of grass and legumes. The sheep obtain their feed by grazing on the pastures. And sheep do not cause much damage to plants unlike cattle. Hence, they can leave in the pasture even if the soil is wet. As a protection however, it is necessary to build an electric fence around the pasture. The fence will not prevent the sheep from going far away from the flock but also will protect the sheep from predators. Shelters : Due to heavy fleece on the body sheep do not feel cold. They can be kept in an open shed also. But a new born lamb should not get exposed to cold and proper arrangement should be there for a new born. Otherwise, the lamb gets in to stress due to cold climatic conditions. Also, some source of heat should be there in the shed for the new born if the weather is cold. Chutes : To keep the animals in separate groups it is important to build enclosures. It is difficult to separate the lamb from the ewe, so special equipment is a must. A chute will not let the sheep move around and will keep the sheep together. This system is handy when a treatment has to be given to the whole herd. For example, administering of vaccines to the flock becomes easy if they are together in the chute. Also, the tagging becomes easy when they are inside a chute. The chute should have a width of 14-16 inches so that the sheep have some scope of movement. Equipment to handle lambing : Though open lambing is very common it is preferred to have pens of small size to hold the ewe and the new born. A pen meant for lambing should have heat lamps to provide warmth to the offspring. The heat lamp should provide a temperature of 90 0 F. For identification purpose, tagging of ears should be done for the new born lambs. Tagging makes it easy to identify the mother and kid. Equipment for feeding : Hay is fed in the winter months and to avoid wastage of hay a manger should be there in the pen. Concentrates are also needed and it can be provided in the same bunk in which hay is fed. Sheep should also have access to clean water. The water tub should be cleaned once a week. There should be a provision for milk feeders for the orphaned lambs. Only after putting the entire above mentioned infrastructure in place one can consider of having a sheep enterprise.
The sheep enterprises are classified into different types according to their goals of production. Each enterprise raises the sheep with a different objective. The working and goals of different types of farm flock producers is explained below: Purebred breeder : This operation raises only purebred sheep and all the rams (male sheep) are sold for breeding purpose. The sheep are fed more so that the growth potential is completely explored and expressed. The ram is retained by the breeder till it attains one year of age. And then it is sold to a customer who is looking for a ram to mate with ewe in his farm. The breeder in this kind of operation owes a big responsibility to the whole industry as such. This is because; the commercial breeders will buy only those rams which can contribute towards production. Commercial market lamb producers : In this kind of operation the breeding is planned in such a way that the lambs are born at the end of winter and early spring. The lambs are weaned off the mother at 60 days of age. Their weaning weight is 60 pounds and they are fed in the pen and on the pastures to attain a market weight of 120 pounds. Thereafter, these lambs are sold. This kind of operation is chosen when the condition of the pasture and feed are favorable to raise the lamb up to the market standards. All the ram lambs are castrated if they are not being market in the initial stages. Young ewes are used for replacement of the old ewes. And the very mature ewes whose production potential drops are culled from the flock. Commercial feeder lamb producers : The only objective of this operation is to feed the sheep/lamb. So, the name given is feeder lamb producers. They produce lamb only for feeding. Sometimes the pastures are not good enough to grow a quality feed. And the quantity of feed grown is also not sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of the lambs. So, it is difficult to produce lambs with heavy weights at weaning. These lambs are fed on the pasture throughout the summer months along with their dams. And they are also finished on the pasture only. In addition to the feed on the pasture concentrates are also fed for finishing. In situations when good pasture is not available in the summer months, the producer waits till autumn and the lamb is given a full feed in the feedlot. Commercial feedlot operator : This is an operation where the final finishing happens. The lambs from the feedlot are sent to this operator for the processing. Here the lambs are treated for any kind of parasitic infections or parasites, they are vaccinated. On arrival they are fed hay and water and gradually concentrates are also fed. The feed is increased gradually till they can take their optimum feed. The aim of this operator is to increase the weight of the lamb. The operator has a target of making the lamb gain 0.5 -0.8 lb each day. Buyers prefer buying lambs with 80 - 90 lb so that they need to add on another 30-40 pounds for finishing.
The ration of sheep from birth to finishing is different at each stage of growth. The feed program changes at every stage. The feed constituents also differ as per the nutritional demand at a particular phase. For the first few weeks all lambs derive their nutrition from the mother's milk. The lactation is at its peak during the 3 rd and 4 th weeks after birth of the lamb. When the lamb reaches 4-6 weeks of age, 50% of its nutrition is derived from outside food and not mother's milk. Lambs should be creep fed. It is a method of providing additional nutrition to nursing lambs. It is started very early when there are many births. Creep feeding will make the lamb get habitual of eating dry feed. This will initiate the development of the rumen and they can be weaned very easily. Ration after weaning : Growing lambs feed intake is 4% of its body weight. The ration may not be very complicated or costly. When the lamb is too young, finely ground feed with small size of particles is fed. They can be fed soybean meal also. Feed should fresh and dry and not watery. The main constituents of the feed at this stage after weaning are as listed below. High protein : Proteins are required in high proportions for the growth of lean muscle. So, the producer should ensure that the feed has 18-20% of crude protein Once the lambs grow they can eat granular coarse food and whole grains. The need for protein goes down with the deposition of fat. Calcium and phosphorus : These two nutrients should be given in the ratio of 2:1. This will prevent the occurrences of stones in kidney. Feed additives : To prevent the occurrences of intestinal diseases, the feed should contain coccidiostats that are approved by FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Feed of a finishing lamb : Ration of a finishing lamb comprises of superior quality pasture. In addition to pasture they can also feed on stubbles and feedlots. Lambs are given a diet rich in concentrates when they are put for finishing. And a lamb should change over from high roughage to low roughage when it comes for finishing. It takes some weeks for the transition of diet to happen. To avoid problems of acidosis, 10% roughage is recommended in the diet. The main components of ration for finishing sheep are corn and soybean. Corn and soybean can be replaced by barley and sorghum grains. Oats are rich in fiber and they can be a substitute for corn. Feeding whole grains to mature lambs will improve their feed efficiency. Whole grain diet is one which has unprocessed whole grains like barley and corn with shells. They are mixed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are rich sources of energy. And there is no need to provide roughage separately if whole grains are fed. Hence, a good feeding program is one which can help the lambs to attain their genetic potential. Feeding is a great responsibility for the producer and to maximize the gains it should be altered from time to time.