Small stock production: Manage small stock feed flow for best production

Supplements in sheep and goat diets help to boost low quality roughage in available grazing, correct nutrient deficiencies and improve flock production. Weigh up the options, look at your available forage and make a sound decision that benefits your flock and consequently your pocket.

There is demand, as we have heard from the Saudis, so upgrade your flock management, grow your numbers and become the farmer you were meant to be.

African farmers have great capacity and there is absolutely no excuse for failure to apply that capacity.

THINK ABOUT THE SEASON AHEAD

Timing is a critical management tool for any stock farmer. You, the stockman, must manipulate the timing of seasonal events to suit the conditions and your own requirements. It’s really about managing ahead with your eye on the ball, rather than managing to catch up, with your eye on the crises.

Keep the focus on the farmer’s good friend common sense, and mate your ewes so that they lamb when grazing and browsing is abundant.

This way you will make the most effective use of the natural resources (grass and leafy material), and eliminate expensive fodder inputs, when flock demand is at its highest with a good lamb crop on the ground.

If your timing is right, you will reap the benefits by marketing young animals earlier.

Small stock farmers must often graze their animals on communal lands that may be over-utilised. A shortage of feed will have an impact on the animal and its production capacity.
Small stock farmers must often graze their animals on communal lands that may be over-utilised. A shortage of feed will have an impact on the animal and its production capacity.

BREEDING

Keep the mating season down to six weeks so that you cover two oestrus cycles. An extended breeding season just makes management more difficult.

It’s so easy to start running into continuous programmes of vaccinating, dipping and deworming. There seems to be no end to it and you begin to wonder if you have the right animals in the right groups. A restricted breeding season does away with this and irons out many management headaches.

Stay away from any stress for three weeks after mating. Inadequate feed supply, dipping, walking for long distances and shearing would all fall into a list of stressful activities. Stress during early pregnancy may cause foetal resorption, which will cause financial loss.

Sufficient quantities of feed for ewes in the last two months of pregnancy will make for strong lambs.

LAMBING

  • Lambs should suckle as soon as possible after birth so that they take in colostrum which gives them disease resistance and helps with early feed intakes.
  • Very young sheep and goats need some form of shelter from wind and rain.
  • Ewes in good condition have more milk and grow out their lambs faster than mothers that battle to maintain. This translates to earlier weaning dates which means the ewes will have fewer problems with reconception for the next breeding season.
  • A ewe will not reconceive easily if she has taken a hammering after lambing.
Lucerne hay is a good source of protein for lambs and their lactating mothers. Demand on ewes suckling lambs is high, and they may need supplementary feeding during early lactation.
Lucerne hay is a good source of protein for lambs and their lactating mothers. Demand on ewes suckling lambs is high, and they may need supplementary feeding during early lactation.

SUPPLEMENTING THE VELD GRAZING

  • When natural pasture (veld) in poor condition is short of protein. During feed shortages prioritise the supply of energy and protein.
  • Remember that access to enough roughage (hay or veld) is a must when you feed stock.
  • Most grain crops and their residues make good energy sources. Add slaked lime to grain at a ratio of 1kg lime : 100kg grain to prevent acidosis.
    Feed out small quantities of grain to start with and build up the amounts. Lime-treated grain improves intakes.
  • Supplementary protein sources are lucerne hay, lupins, cottonseed oilcake meal, soya bean oilcake meal, sunflower oilcake meal and fishmeal.
Goats are hardy and have the ability to adapt to rugged terrain and difficult conditions. In arid zones they show remarkable resilience which must not be seen as a good reason to turn them out and forget about them. Management makes the farmer profitable, and good management makes him more profitable.
Goats are hardy and have the ability to adapt to rugged terrain and difficult conditions. In arid zones they show remarkable resilience which must not be seen as a good reason to turn them out and forget about them. Management makes the farmer profitable, and good management makes him more profitable.

NON-PROTEIN NITROGEN

Small ruminant stock can convert urea (non-protein nitrogen), a cheap and commonly used source of nitrogen, into protein. Stock farmers usually give out urea in licks. The problem with urea is that it can poison animals if they take in too much of it. The lick should be hard, not crumbly, to restrict intakes. If containers are open and have no drainage holes, rain may make the lick soft and liquid which is deadly.

The ruminant gut is best served by slow changes to feeding programmes. The chances of negative pushback to overnight changes in feed are high – so do it slowly and give your stock (and the microbes in their guts) time to adjust.

Regulate intakes by adding 20% to 40% salt to the urea lick. Sheep and goats should not eat more than 10 g to 14 g of urea a day.

LICK FOR EWES IN LATE PREGNANCY AND IN LACTATION

During drought or times of fodder shortages, on veld, or pastures, provide lick at 200 g per ewe per day in late pregnancy, and 400 g per ewe per day in lactation. Make up the lick as follows:

  • 570 kg grain meal
  • 143 kg of fishmeal or oilcake meal
  • 78 kg of sweet lupin meal or oilcake meal
  • 37 kg of urea
  • 15.5 kg of slaked lime
  • 15 kg molasses meal/powder
  • 1.5 kg sulphur
  • 140 kg of salt

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