Supplemental feeding methods

joe3

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Hey everybody, up in the Pacific Northwest here, curious what you all are doing to feed your flocks. We have 25 sheep, and all but 6 are currently locked up with their babies in maternity pens. We learned relatively recently that our pasture has pretty low quality forage, so we are now having to supplement pellet food in the mornings. I built a 14 foot feeding trough and attached to one wall in our largest sheep stall in the barn.

Maybe a bit of background on the barn, which really isn't a barn. It's essentially a giant pole building, with two stalls to keep the wind off the sheep when they sleep. The smaller stall currently houses a ewe and her triplets.

Even though there are only 6 free ranging sheep at the moment, it seems they fight for space at the feeding trough as is. Once I return the ewes and their lambs, there is no way there will be enough space for everyone at the trough.

The wall opposite the trough has a corner mounted feeder for minerals and wall mounted hay feeders. There isn't a ton of room to expand the feeding trough I built, and I was curious what methods y'all use to feed this many sheep at once. I'd really rather not buy protein tubs every few days, but I'm at a loss as to a good way to proceed.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
 

farmerjan

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Split them in 2 groups and feed one group and turn them out... feed the rest then turn them out... If you are running them all together... just let in about half and let them eat and then put them out a different gate to the big pasture and let the rest in to eat. Won't matter if the lambs and ewes aren't matched up for an hour or so....There ought to be a way for you to take a few gates/panels and be able to separate them once one group eats and goes out... while the others are in a section to let them into the pen with the feed... once the first group goes out... so you need something like a holding pen for them... next to the stall.... or let half in to eat in the pen, then shoo them out into the holding pen and let the rest in to eat...

Or put a longer trough outside and feed them... even in the rain, they will eat it quickly enough to not spoil... But I like to be able to put feed out for our cattle in a closed in pen, then open the gate for them to come in so I don't get trampled...
 

joe3

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Split them in 2 groups and feed one group and turn them out... feed the rest then turn them out... If you are running them all together... just let in about half and let them eat and then put them out a different gate to the big pasture and let the rest in to eat. Won't matter if the lambs and ewes aren't matched up for an hour or so....There ought to be a way for you to take a few gates/panels and be able to separate them once one group eats and goes out... while the others are in a section to let them into the pen with the feed... once the first group goes out... so you need something like a holding pen for them... next to the stall.... or let half in to eat in the pen, then shoo them out into the holding pen and let the rest in to eat...

Or put a longer trough outside and feed them... even in the rain, they will eat it quickly enough to not spoil... But I like to be able to put feed out for our cattle in a closed in pen, then open the gate for them to come in so I don't get trampled...
I like this idea, thank you for the reply. I may put a second trough in the second stall and separate them that way. I tried a makeshift round feeder so they could be on both sides, but they climbed in it and fought for space.
 

SageHill

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Right now mine are split into 3 groups -
ram and his buddy in a 12x12 with a 10ft bunk feeder (not like they need a big one though),
Newest lambs and their mamas in a 12x12 - one 5ft bunk feeder
and the rest in a 24x12 stall. one 10ft bunk feeder on one wall and a 5 ft bunk feeder on the opposite wall and 4 deep rubber tubs scattered around with pellets.
They are grazed out in the am and pm for 1-2 hours and have access to a pasture during the day.
 

joe3

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Right now mine are split into 3 groups -
ram and his buddy in a 12x12 with a 10ft bunk feeder (not like they need a big one though),
Newest lambs and their mamas in a 12x12 - one 5ft bunk feeder
and the rest in a 24x12 stall. one 10ft bunk feeder on one wall and a 5 ft bunk feeder on the opposite wall and 4 deep rubber tubs scattered around with pellets.
They are grazed out in the am and pm for 1-2 hours and have access to a pasture during the day.
Thanks. This is good info. We don't have our rams separated since we don't have a good way to do it yet. Once the pasture building is complete, we will put cross fencing in and be able to keep them separate. But right now there isn't a feasible way to get it done and still allow them to range in the pasture.

I need to figure out a way to reorder the stalls in the barn. It's a large structure where one side is for vehicles and the other side borders the sheep run and road to the pasture. Business in the front, party in the back haha. I didn't plan the best when I started building maternity pens on the sheep run side and probably waster more space than I needed to
 

Ridgetop

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Very important to separate your rams asap. During breeding they will fight. More importantly, you won't know which ram sired which lambs. You may not think that is important if these are not registered sheep, but it is very important to know which ram is siring which lambs.

Some rams sire heavy birth weight lambs which can cause lambing difficulties for smaller ewes. Some rams sire slow gaining lambs or lambs that just don't gain well. If a ram goes sterile or has less motile sperm, he will settle fewer ewes. That ram should be culled. You won't know that if other rams are in with the sheep because they will cover those ewes, and you will continue feeding a sterile or worthless ram. Feed is too expensive for that.

As far as feeders go, lining one wall with a feeder may save floor space but it is also cutting your ability to feed sheep in half. A feeder that is accessible from both sides will allow twice as many sheep to access the hay or pellet.

We are on a steep ridge which limits us as to space. We have one large pasture, and 2 smaller pastures. At the moment we have 33 breeding ewes divided into 3 pens, each with a different ram. Usually only use one breeding pen, and try for staggered lambing, but we wanted them all bred for one lambing this year. Each pen has a 8' feeder in it. The 8' double sided feeder will feed 12 sheep easily. In the largest pen which doubles as a night pen we have 2 6' double sided feeders. We have a 24x39' barn. One end is divided into a 10x20 pen. That pen is divided in half with a creep gate. In the main part of the pen we have one 8' fenceline feeder and the sheep crowd to eat. With a creep gate the lambs have an area where they can eat without competition from their mothers. I did not bother putting in the creep one year and the lambs did not gain properly because the larger sheep crowded them away from the feeder. We don't grain our lambs.

Currently we feed all alfalfa. We have White Dorpers and alfalfa is nutritious enough that we do not have to supplement. I might give a little grain (rolled barleycorn) to help with lactation, but none to the lambs. My lambs wean off at 8 weeks around 60+ lbs.

We are in the process of moving to northwest Texas. There we have good pasture, but the grass is Bermuda and Bahia which is lower in protein than alfalfa. We will have to supplement there with a pellet or grain mix. Since the hay we will be feeding in Texas is baled in large rounds 5' in diameter that will change how we feed hay. We won't be able to peel off flakes to put in the feeders, instead if we want to feed in feeders we will have to unwind the bales.
 

joe3

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Very important to separate your rams asap. During breeding they will fight. More importantly, you won't know which ram sired which lambs. You may not think that is important if these are not registered sheep, but it is very important to know which ram is siring which lambs.

Some rams sire heavy birth weight lambs which can cause lambing difficulties for smaller ewes. Some rams sire slow gaining lambs or lambs that just don't gain well. If a ram goes sterile or has less motile sperm, he will settle fewer ewes. That ram should be culled. You won't know that if other rams are in with the sheep because they will cover those ewes, and you will continue feeding a sterile or worthless ram. Feed is too expensive for that.

As far as feeders go, lining one wall with a feeder may save floor space but it is also cutting your ability to feed sheep in half. A feeder that is accessible from both sides will allow twice as many sheep to access the hay or pellet.

We are on a steep ridge which limits us as to space. We have one large pasture, and 2 smaller pastures. At the moment we have 33 breeding ewes divided into 3 pens, each with a different ram. Usually only use one breeding pen, and try for staggered lambing, but we wanted them all bred for one lambing this year. Each pen has a 8' feeder in it. The 8' double sided feeder will feed 12 sheep easily. In the largest pen which doubles as a night pen we have 2 6' double sided feeders. We have a 24x39' barn. One end is divided into a 10x20 pen. That pen is divided in half with a creep gate. In the main part of the pen we have one 8' fenceline feeder and the sheep crowd to eat. With a creep gate the lambs have an area where they can eat without competition from their mothers. I did not bother putting in the creep one year and the lambs did not gain properly because the larger sheep crowded them away from the feeder. We don't grain our lambs.

Currently we feed all alfalfa. We have White Dorpers and alfalfa is nutritious enough that we do not have to supplement. I might give a little grain (rolled barleycorn) to help with lactation, but none to the lambs. My lambs wean off at 8 weeks around 60+ lbs.

We are in the process of moving to northwest Texas. There we have good pasture, but the grass is Bermuda and Bahia which is lower in protein than alfalfa. We will have to supplement there with a pellet or grain mix. Since the hay we will be feeding in Texas is baled in large rounds 5' in diameter that will change how we feed hay. We won't be able to peel off flakes to put in the feeders, instead if we want to feed in feeders we will have to unwind the bales.
I cannot overstate how much this post has helped. You mentioned some things which seem obvious now but I never considered. It's much easier to feed hay than grain or pellets, and we can get alfalfa up here for under 8 bucks a bale. This is absolutely the direction we will be moving in.

Longer term, we will fertilize and overseed our pastures with a clover mix and use rotational grazing. But we are already buying hay for the fall and winter, and now we're looking at supplementing with grain/pellets. Removing grain entirely cuts the effort and cost by a third.

Your advice about the rams also caused me to consider things which I hadn't previously.

To sum it up, your well-stated and thorough post has helped us more than I can accurately convey. Thank you, kind sir.
 

Ridgetop

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I'm glad I was able to help.

If you are getting alfalfa at $8/bale that is a great price.

Figuring the protein level of alfalfa at 18% your sheep should get about 3-5 lbs. of good alfalfa daily to maintain a moderate weight, depending on the breed and size. We feed am and pm so divide the amounts in half for each feeding. Feed depending on the body condition of the animals, and the life cycle they are in - increase slightly to flush before breeding, don't increase while pregnant to avoid too much weight gain, reduce slightly during last month of pregnancy to lessen oversize of lambs, and increase again after lambing while lactating. During breeding season rams will sometimes drop a bit of weight but will regain it once removed from cycling ewes.

You can also feed depending on the individual weight of the sheep. We find that a medium frame sheep - about 120-140 lbs. needs 1/3 flake daily, larger breeds may need 1/2 flake. Flakes can vary in weight depending on your hay and the quality. No grain is needed depending on breed. If you have sheep that need more than alfalfa while lactating, then you can add some grain. I don't use expensive pellet feed blends, I just use rolled barleycorn. It is much cheaper, is a dry feed, easy to store in metal cans and measure.

BTW: You can buy ready-made creep gates from sheep equipment suppliers, but can also make your own using 2x4s, rebar, and PVC pipes over the rebar to spin when lambs pass through. Look online for patterns and instructions. We have used both. If you can't find a pattern, let me know and I can post one.
 
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