To improve production, enhance your available grazing and provide supplements for nutrient deficiencies – especially during feed shortages.
One of the best things a sheep or goat farmer can do is to plan lambing for when grazing is plentiful, because the lambs will then have a better chance of survival. It eliminates the need for expensive fodder and the lambs can also be marketed earlier.
THE GESTATION PERIOD
- Limit the mating season to 6 weeks so that it covers 2 oestrus cycles.
- An extended mating season makes flock management difficult (vaccination, dipping and dosing).
- Prevent malnutrition, stress (as a result of dipping and shearing) and driving animals over long distances in the first 3 weeks after mating because it can lead to resorption of the foetus.
- Sufficient feed for late-pregnant ewes (during the final 6 to 8 weeks) ensures strong lambs.
Follow these guidelines to prevent nutrient deficiencies:
- Lambs should suckle as soon as possible after birth to ingest colostrum so that they can build up natural resistance to diseases and take in feed.
- Provide suitable shelter from wind and rain.
- Ensure that the ewes with lambs maintain good condition.
- The lambs of ewes that produce lots of milk grow fast and can be weaned earlier.
- This gives the ewes a chance to reach an acceptable mass after weaning and before they conceive again.
- If a ewe loses too much condition during lambing, she will not easily conceive during the next mating season.
- Deteriorating veld usually first shows a protein deficiency.
- Energy and protein are the most important supplements during feed shortages and should be provided in combination.
- Maize, barley, triticale, wheat and oats can be used as supplementary energy sources.
- As supplementary protein sources you could choose between lucerne hay, lupins, cottonseed oilcake meal, soya bean oilcake meal, sunflower oilcake meal, canola and fishmeal.
- Urea can be used in licks, and be combined with other ingredients.
- But be aware that too much urea can poison small stock – sheep and goats should not eat more than 10 g to 14 g urea a day.
- Salt (20% – 40%) should be added to the regulate intake.
- Be careful: if rain falls on urea licks that are provided in open containers without drainage holes, animals that drink from such containers will be poisoned and could die.
Bear the following in mind when providing supplementary feed:
- Feeding grain to sheep and goats could cause acid stomach.
- It can be avoided by adding slaked lime to the grain (1 kg lime to 100 kg grain).
- Lime-treated grain will also improve the animal’s intake of grain.
- Provide small quantities of grain at first, so that the animals gradually become used to it.
- Sheep and goats that are fed must have access to sufficient roughage.
- This article was written by Prof. Tertius Brand and first appeared in Farming SA.