Rule of Thumb on Hay Per Sheep. How much hay do I need?

Bicoastal

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How much hay do I need to store for winter per sheep? I have five ewe lambs that weighed 50lbs on average at six months. How much hay do I need to put up for winter in Central VA? One 21-bale bundle of small squares?

Online resources are kind of all over the place based on production goals and supplemental feed. I won't be breeding mine in their first year, so I am simply looking to maintain their weight through winter. They are rotated through good pasture that has been tested and treated accordingly. They have access to loose mineral. My locally available hay is 45-55lb small squares of 2nd cut orchard, 2nd cut fescue/orchard, or 2nd or 3rd cutting fescue/orchard/timothy. I want to have more than enough rather than be caught without come March.
 

Mini Horses

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Online resources are kind of all over the place based on production goals and supplemental feed.
Because it matters! They are growing. Your pastures will go down. Go with orchard. A 21 bundle is approx 1/2 ton at those sizes. What you supplement changes things, plus how fed and waste. But at least 5# per head per day, if supplemented, more in Jan/Feb due to growth. How long VA holds grass growth? (Yes, I'm in VA) If me, I'd want at least 3 bundles and :fl

We have more sheepers in VA. @secuono ? Yours are smaller but you know sheep. I do goats.
 

farmerjan

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I don't know about lbs hay for a sheep.... we figure 50 lbs per cow per day on an average; more when it is cold out. Our rolls are 1,000 to 1200 lbs and figure 20 cows per roll per day.... It is a rough estimate. Real cold and they will be eating more. Quality also matters. Real rough or "old hay" they will need more. That figures out to about 5% of their body weight for just maintenance.
We feed some fescue hay to the cows... but if I never had to deal with fescue it wouldn't hurt my feelings. The growing/grazing time is the worst for the toxicity end. Okay for the steers and works great after a frost. It is not as big a problem after it is made into hay. Fescue just needs to be managed right.
I would go with the orchard grass or the orchard/fescue/timothy. My only question is the timothy mix because timothy is naturally a "colder weather" type of hay and here in the Shen Valley, seldom do any farmers that even attempt to grow it , get much in a later cutting.... I grew up with timothy as a primary hay in Conn. and the horses did great on it. I had a dairy farmer here that used to get it trucked in for his small dairy of show cows because he said they did better and milked better on it.
My DS will feed some alfalfa to his pregnant ewes and they will get about 1-2 flakes for 10 or more ewes, a day. Helps with the protein and micronutrients when they are pregnant and intake is limited due to carrying lambs.
I would hazard a guess at 1-2 flakes a day... more likely less than more. The one thing is you need to not just maintain them, they need to be growing through their young age or they will not be able to do as well as in the future breeding. And to do that you should probably feed them a little grain and the best quality hay you can. Good growth while young will allow them to achieve the size and body maturity so they can breed and successfully carry a pregnancy to term. Get them through the winter in good condition and gaining and growing, they will "take off" in the spring next year and be better able to utilize the green grass.
 
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SA Farm

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Yep 5#s of hay per sheep per day for about 6 months is what I typically do (a bit more later for bred ewes). That’s ~25lbs or half a bale a day for 180 days to feed 5 sheep = 90 bales.
That’s about 18 bales per sheep per year. If you want to err on the side of caution you could get them one bundle (21 bales) each. That’s about what I get for my 5 sheep, but I also tend to get more since mine are breeding. I also give them a bit of grain each a day in addition that I slowly increase over the winter for the bred ewes.
 

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Wow! I was way off with one bundle. I’ve asked the seller and a mentor and they can’t or won’t give me numbers. “Welllll, it depends…”

I can’t place an order for “it depends.” You guys gave me concrete numbers. And they matched! 😆 Thank you so much!
 

farmerjan

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I hope that it didn't scare you with the amount that several of us said to get. I realize it is money... we run 150 head of brood cows, plus raise alot of our heifers as replacements and weaned steers, and we make all our own hay and sell some orchard grass to a couple of longtime horse customers. So I am well aware of the costs... BUT one thing to look at. Overall, a good part of Va had a decent year for growing hay. There should be hay around to buy. If it gets dry next year, and there were dry places in this state but moreso in Pa and New England as well as the horrific drought conditions in the southern and southwestern states... where there was NO hay at most any price.... as long as you keep this hay under cover and it doesn't get wet, you will have a cushion towards next year if you don't feed it all.
We try to keep 100-400 big rolls as a cushion, and we actually bought hay this spring because we were short and didn't want to get caught down to nothing... Granted we work on a MUCH BIGGER scale... but it is all the same... if you are short of hay it doesn't matter if you are feeding 1 or 100... especially if it isn't available.
Hay will get a little "drier" if kept over and might lose a little of the protein value... but if it is kept dry and out of the sunlight so it doesn't bleach out... there is nothing wrong with feeding hay that is 2-3-5 years old.
As the saying here goes... it sure beats snowballs when it is 10 degrees out and snowing more.... If they have enough roughage, then their rumens' will work. You might have to add a little protein, grain of some sort, but that is better than not having the roughage.
 
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