abortion, goats; parasites; ewes

Small stock production: How to feed your ewes and does

The most important objective of small stock farming is to produce lambs or kids. Most of them are sold and the rest are kept for breeding. To ensure successful breeding, they must be fed properly. Here are some guidelines.

The number of lambs or kids that reach weaning or slaughtering age determines the profitability of an enterprise. The lamb or kid crop, therefore, determines how much money a small stock farmer can make.

Feeding influences the animals’ production level and sexual activity. Sufficient feed must be available throughout the year. Animals have special nutritional needs during certain production stages.

The nutritional requirements of a lactating ewe/doe can be up to 3 times as much as when she is dry.


  • The condition of ewes/does influences their ability to conceive and lamb.
  • Feeding during late pregnancy (6 to 8 weeks before lambing) plays a role in birth mass and the lamb or kid’s ability to survive.
  • Nutritional deficiencies during late pregnancy result in the birth of small, weak lambs and kids and low milk production in ewes.
  • Too-fat ewes/does are also undesirable.
  • They lamb with difficulty, because the unborn lambs/kids are too big and too much fat is deposited in the reproduction canals.
  • These ewes/does easily fall prey to “domsiekte” (a disease of pregnant animals), if there is a sudden scarcity of grazing.

Also read:
Managing ewes in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy
Part two – Managing ewes in the last six weeks of pregnancy


  • The nutritional needs of ewes/does are very high when they are lactating.
  • Lambs must suckle and take in colostrum as soon as possible after birth.
  • Frozen sheep colostrum (thawed and heated slightly) can be given as an alternative.

In emergencies, artificial colostrum can be used.

This consists of:

  • 1 litre full-cream milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • Beat well; heat to body temperature.


  • Do not have too many ewes/does.
  • The veld can only provide feed for a limited number of animals.
  • If too many animals are kept, the demands on animals, as well as on the veld, are high.
  • Ewes/does rearing their young, in particular, suffer when there isn’t enough feed.

Also read: Reproduction management tips for sheep and goats

  • This article was written by Tertius Brand and first appeared in Farming SA.

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