What grains do you feed?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by thelowefarm, Mar 30, 2005.

  1. thelowefarm

    thelowefarm Member

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    We don't have good pasture yet, so we're feeding free choice timothy (mixed) hay and supplementing with a corn/oats/wheat bran/lineseed meal grain mix (we mix the whole ingredients ourselves) and providing a free choice mineral salt mix. Got the grain reciepe from a sheep book. They seem to gobble it down.

    The vet came out recently and said that whole grains are not digestible and that we should switch to a pre-mixed pelleted food (like Purian Sheep Chow) and DOUBLE the daily amount we give our sheep. I mentioned that we didn't like pelleted food because you couldn't really tell what was in it, it was dustier, each bag you get is different, and we'd read that the less processing the grain has the more nutrition it offers.

    She said that pre-mixed pellets was the only way to be sure that the sheep get the vitamins and minerals they need and that free choice minerals don't let you know how much each animal is getting. She also said that we need a separate feeding pan for EACH sheep and that they need to be spaced out at least a few feet between each one to make sure each sheep gets their share. We currently have one pan for each two sheep (only have 6 sheep right now).

    We're feeding 1 cup (actually measuring cup) of grain a day per sheep, plus all the hay they can eat. What does everyone else feed? I thought sheep could pretty much survive on hay/grass with little supplemental feeding. None of our sheep are pg this year either. Help. Are we way off base?
     
  2. ShortSheep

    ShortSheep Well-Known Member

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    I feed shell corn, oats, and soybean husk. I don't like pelleted feed because my sheep choke on them, and they have too many additives. I don't have a seperate feed pan for each ewe (20 feed pans?!?!) but I do watch each day and make sure everyone is eating. There is minor jostling and pushing, nothing too bad. I do check the condition of the ewes and anyone thin gets fed seperately.
    I also give mineral and baking soda free choice.
     

  3. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    here are some thoughts, I'm no expert...
    I like the grain mix, sounds good enough for people to eat, just add milk. :)
    I guess to start, think about the sheep and their age and condition they are in. For example, if they are still growing they need more protein and energy than if they are mature and simply need to be maintained. As another example, if they are gestating or lactating they need more protein and energy than if they are dry as yours are. Some folks use a condition scoring scale from 1 to 5 where 1 is as thin as a rake and 5 is roly poly...somewhere in the middle is nice, not too thin, not too fat...can't tell by looking over the fence, you must get your fingers down through their wool and feel the fat cover on the backbone.
    Not to discredit your vet but...sheep can eat and digest whole grains just fine. Do you see any whole gain coming through in their manure? Very little is my guess. If it's not coming through whole then they are digesting it. :)
    On salt and minerals...in my experience sheep have a hearty appetite for salt. The literature says that sheep cannot take in enough salt from licking a block so loose salt is preferred. I provide both a salt block and loose salt 'cause I'm the kind of guy who wears both suspenders and a belt. :) Some shepherds struggle getting their sheep to eat enough mineral. The mineral I feed also contains salt to make it more attractive to the sheep. Make sure you feed a mineral specified for sheep...too much copper can be toxic. Soils in my area are selenium deficient (hence hay and grain grown on them also) so the mineral mix contains added selenium (selenium deficiency can cause 'white muscle disease'). You know how much they are eating by how often you have to refill.
    If your sheep are halfway normal, they will go over you or through you if necessary to get to the grain. :) Are they equally aggressive at the grain trough? Any big pigs or little babes? Again you can tell by watching if each one is getting her share.

    I've really kinda skirted your question...here's a personal example...my gals have free choice mature alfalfa hay and 1 pound of whole wheat daily, most are nursing twins in late lactation...they are NOT getting enough protein and energy and are losing condition...lambs will be weaned next week.

    Other thoughts...deworm your gals spring and fall, trim hooves if necessary, a multi-way clostridium vaccination once a year.

    BTW, you can easily figure out the digestible protein and TDN (total digestible nutrients=energy) in your hay and grain ration. There is a marvellous book called 'Morrison's Feeds and Feeding', out of print but often shows up on ebay for little dollars...contains tables showing the nutrient values in every imaginable feed and the nutrient requirements of sheep in various stages and weights.

    A vet you like and trust is important, hope I haven't been too hard on her.

    Sorry for the long-winded post.
     
  4. quailkeeper

    quailkeeper Well-Known Member

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    I don't think your vet knows what she is talking about. Cattle have a hard time digesting whole grains but sheep are different. If you have any doubt check the "poo". If they weren't digesting it well they would just pass it. You can find whole corn and sometimes oats in cattle piles. My sheep never pass whole anything. They are feed an oat, corn, wheat, and alfalfa pellet mixture. The alfalfa pellets are 100% alfalfa or I would not feed them. As far as feeding them each a pan :haha: thats a joke. By the time you got done pouring the last one, the first one would be done and trying to eat the rest and so on. I pour the feed into a long narrow feed trough and they all get their fill. Usually there is even some left over. A friend of mine raises her sheep on nothing but good quality hay and pasture. As far as minerals, we just have a mineral and salt block out free choice. They know how much they need and will eat accordingly. I always have to vote natural when it comes to feed. I even have my chickens on a whole grain diet.
     
  5. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Your vet is seemingly mis-informed about sheep. I'd suggest finding another one, if practical!! Otherwise continue to arm yourself with facts and experienced help!! Pelleted feed is about the worst thing you can feed sheep as a whole ration (suppliment) and they digest whole grains just fine!! Pelleted feed turns to mush and can even damage a sheep's stomach if it is the majority of the feed (late pregnancy). Whole grains help feed motility and digestion by scraping the stomach walls and even act to displace trapped gas. Feeding seperately has advantages but isn't practical beyond a few animals. I would seperate the salt and mineral so they can choose what they want of either. I also use the mineral/protein lick tubs to be sure they are getting what they should have as mineral seems unpalitable on my farm! Your ration sounds OK but I wonder if it has enough protein. I'm not familiar with linseed meal so perhaps it is the primary source of protein? Shoot for 14-16% as a general mait. ration.
     
  6. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Ooops as for amount 1 cup does seem a little lite, but it depends on condition. if they are fat its too much if they are thin you'll need to feed more! Your vet is suggesting an increase so consider the advice and up the ration. I'm feeding about 1.5 pounds of whole corn and 1/4 pound of 48% protein soy, which is a simpler ration to mix but not as "complete" as yours. free choice hay of course!
     
  7. HunterTed

    HunterTed Rockin B Farm

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    I feed my Barbado sheep whole corn every day, I keep coastal hay in front of them 24/7 until my grass is knee deep, and every other day I hand feed them a little sweet feed as a treat. Yes even my big ram will climb up in my lap for his turn with the sweet feed. My sheep stay fat and sassy even with lambs on their side. And they will follow me Anywhere wether I have feed or not. Shure makes it easy to work them.
     
  8. thelowefarm

    thelowefarm Member

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    Thanks for the input. I've read through some Extension publications that recommend whole grains as well and passed them on to our vet. I'm sticking with our whole grain mix, but I'm going to up the amount like she suggested. I've also been watching our sheep eating habits more and I think my one polled ewe is being out competed by a few of my horned ewes for the feed pan.

    I have a theory now that the feed pans being on the ground means they can use their horns to push her out more effectively. I'm thinking that building a raised trough might put her on more equal footing because they would have to use the side of their head instead of their forehead to push her out. Does that sound plausible for anyone with horned sheep?

    Sheep in theory are suppose to be much "easier" keepers than other livestock, but I find that to be true only if you can get reliable help when you do run into problems. I'm sure it will be easier once we have more experience--just like every other venture we've started! :)
     
  9. quailkeeper

    quailkeeper Well-Known Member

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    Believe me sheep are FAR more easy to keep than cattle or goats. Goats stink and are always getting out and testing fences. Cattle open up a whole world of problems. I have a Jersey cow and my neighbor's bull tore my fences down to try and breed her. So now I have to sell her or constantly be fixing fences. I really, really enjoy the sheep. As far as the raised trough idea, that is what I have and it seems to work just fine. Make it long and narrow so they have room to spread out.
     
  10. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is our mixture that we feed daily to our stock. The mixture was based on feeding information from an old book called Feeding and Feeds by Morrison. It is x-posted from a much earlier discussion on concentrates.

    This is what I get my feed mill to make for me at about $6.00 per 50lb bag. Below is cross posted from the goat forum.

    This is the Concentrate supplement feed we feed to sheep and boer goats. Each gets their own mineral supplements plus good horse quality alfalfa and a mix of sudan and Coastal hay (free choice).

    Ingredient, QTY(lbs), Digest Prot %, Protein wt/100 lbs

    Corn, 20, 0.067, 1.34

    Oats, 20, 0.094, 1.88

    Wheat Whole, 20, 0.111, 2.22

    Soy Meal, 20, 0.375, 7.5

    Alfalfa Pellets, 10, 0.118, 1.18

    Molasses, 10, 0, 0

    Salt/minerals, 1, 0, 0

    14.12% digestable protein average, crude protein about 18-19%


    Cost works out at about $6.00 per 50 lb bag. Nutrient analysis numbers are from Morrisons Feed and Feeding book. Remember digestable protein is always lower than crude protein.

    I also feed this to my chickens and rabbits, except for the rabbits I add additional alfalfa pellets.
     
  11. Cat

    Cat Well-Known Member

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    My experience with the seperate feed pans is that (in my case 10 ewes) 10 sheep will try to eat out of the first pan and when they've sufficiently tipped, stomped, and ruined that pan then they'll move en masse to the next feed pan and work on ruining that one. If they can tip it over, they're going to!! I don't know who told sheep that their neighbor's eating steak while they themself has a hot dog but they never are satisfied with their own meal!!
     
  12. reluctantpatriot

    reluctantpatriot I am good without god.

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    I feed my sheep the same as the goats. All get a "double grain" sweet feed, whole feed oats, crimped corn when I can get it, and what hay we have available from a family friend. They all also browse on brush and what passes for grass/ground cover here. They get a sheep formulated salt/mineral loose mineral as I have read that sheep will break their teeth on a mineral block, but goats won't.

    The doe goats get Golden Minerals from Hoeggers as they are in two separate pens from the rams and bucks and there is zero risk of copper toxicity from them (the rams) from getting it into their system.

    I think mixing the livestock (goats and sheep) is a good idea for brush/weed control as what one doesn't eat, the other species will.

    As for vets, read all you can for your own sake. In my area vets are either dog/cat/small companion animal vets or they are cow/horse big farm animal vets. Either way, they don't know chickens, turkeys, goats or sheep so you are on your own.
     
  13. quailkeeper

    quailkeeper Well-Known Member

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    I just wanted to mention that there are many people who think that you have to have goats for brush control. Not true!! My sheep actually prefer blackberries, shrubs, cedar, etc to grass. All I have are sheep and I don't have any brush or briars left in my pasture.
     
  14. ONThorsegirl

    ONThorsegirl Fergusons Family Farm

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    Hello everyone, We feed whole barley. They digest it fine and they love it, the only problem is that our sheep are so friendly that they are on top of you before you hit the feeders so most of the feed is spilt all over the ground, so we don't know exaclty how much each sheep gets, Roughly we feed .5 to 1 pound 2 times daily depending on the time of year.

    We have a great feed mill that will mix what ever you wish for a good price.
    half, corn and the other half barley or oats, darn I can't remember. It is then mixed with a little bit of molasses. What do you think of this blend? Since we are in Canada the prices are more expensive, this bag of feed would be $8.75 for 88 lbs.

    Thanks, Melissa
     
  15. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Sounds a little low in protein but if you have first class hay its likely all they need. Here's a website Col State U feeds for sheep and cattle that might help keep your sheep in top condition. [​IMG]
     
  16. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    They do have free choice loose salt and loose mineral all the time. Ontario is selenium deficient, (and that will cause weight losses/low birth weights) so if they do not you'll want to find a mineral for sheep that has selenium in it. There are some custom blends out there with a vet script for higher E/Sel.