New to Sheep - Feeding Enough?

buckarooski

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Hello there!
I recently adopted 3 East Friesian sheep that were born this past March. (2 wethers and 1 ewe) We have them on a little less than an acre in the backyard area of our property. They have an old shed for a shelter. The grass/pasture in this area is not the best. It's mostly weeds and moss. The sheep do eat some of it and seemed to eat more of it when they first arrived than they do now. I feed them grass hay all day every day that I have in a makeshift feeder made out of a trash can. They have minerals in their shed and fresh water at all times in the shade. I also feed them about 2 cups total of some 12% all stock sweet feed every day. I was doing a body condition check today and I was thinking they might be too thin. They don't look thin because of their wool coming in, but when I felt down through the wool, I could easily feel their spines. Their ribs didn't feel as prominent. I am just wondering if I should be feeding them more or differently? I don't want to have fat sheep since I know that contributes to other health issues, but I don't want them to be too thin. Any advice you can share with me would be most appreciated as I'm a first-time sheep owner. Thank you so much!
 

Mike CHS

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I don't know anything about wool sheep but you can check body condition rather than go by looks. This link is a pretty good start on how to:

 

Ridgetop

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Since you are a first time sheep owner you need to know that most of the sheep information is from and for market sheep owners. This can be confusing.

The thing to remember here is that yur East Friesans are not just a wool breed. As I understand it the East Friesian is primarily a milk production breed. In that case, you want to go on line to the East Friesian Club (if there is one) website and determine if the East Friesian is supposed to be built like a meat breed or a dairy breed. Meat and dairy are worlds apart in respect of their structure and conditioning.

Meat animals are rounder boned, have much more flesh on them and are slightly different structurally. Dairy animals are flat boned, sharper in appearance - sometimes looking bony to a novice - and have a wider escutcheon (width between the upper rear legs below the vulva) to accomodate the larger udder.

If you look at photos of prize winning dairy goats and Holstein cows and compare them to Boer goats and Angus cattle you can see at a glance the differences that I am referring to. The dairy animal (Holstein) looks angular while the meat animal (Angus) looks well padded. The dairy animal should not be thick and meaty. She is designed by man to put her nutritional intake into kids and MILK! Healthy dairy animals that never seem to fatten are often referred to as "putting it all in the pail".

Call several of the larger East Friesen breeders and check with them about the proper body type for East Friesians. If your sheep are truly thin, then you should check your feeding management. The higher the protein level in their diet, the less fat they will put on. If you want to add body fat, you can add rolled corn to their grain ration. If they are grazing poor pasture, where they are not rotated, you might want to take a stool sample and worm them.

If their health maintenance and nutrition are up to snuff, you may be confusing sheep body condition for your breed. Like I said, dairy animals have a slightly different structure than meat animals and should not carry the same amount of meat and fat. The on line body condition scoring charts are for meat animals.
 

mysunwolf

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I agree with @Ridgetop.

East Friesians definitely tend to keep themselves skinnier than other breeds. But I'll say this, lambs should be kept in fairly good condition since they aren't making milk. If you've noticed that they seem to be losing fat or not growing as well as they were, make sure to get a fecal done and check eyelids (FAMACHA scoring) to make sure that it's not parasites that are inhibiting their growth. EFs are notoriously bad for barber pole worm and tend to struggle where it's warm and wet.

OH, and don't worry too much about your fat wethers, as long as they are not obese they'll be fine health wise. It's the ewe lambs that you want in average condition, so that they can breed easily as well as milk better. Fat ewe lambs get fatty udders and their milk production will never reach full genetic potential.

We've only had this breed for about 5 years, but have fallen in love despite their total and complete lack of hardiness!
 

Ridgetop

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Since the pasture is not good and they have been grazing it for several months definitely do a worm check. You may find that they just need to be wormed. Take some poop to the vet and have him do a check for Barber Pole and any other parasites. You need to now what worms to treat for. Since these are young sheep and the ewe is not pregnant you have a greater option of worm treatments. Some are not effective on Barber Pole so make sure to have a fecal done before worming your sheep.
 

Sheepshape

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Agree with what has been said before.
Body condition score is the thing to go by, and you will rapidly be able to distinguish the grades. If the vertebral spines are very easy to feel then they are almost certainly too thin. Ewe lambs fatter quicker and easier than ram lambs.
As mentioned by Ridgetop a faecal egg count will be helpful and your vet can advise which wormer to use.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your sheep.
 
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