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Author Topic: Forage feed for winter  (Read 922 times)


  • Joined Sep 2016
Forage feed for winter
« on: November 17, 2019, 08:06:56 pm »
Hi guys, we have a small flock of 10 mixed breed sheep such as soay, shetland, Welsh lleyn and hebridean. I have tried to be proactive this year my cutting and baling my own hay this summer (by hand!) and stored it for the winter but mice seem to have got in and no matter what we do to get rid, the hay is starting to smell like mice! Is it going to still be OK to feed it to the sheep?
We don't have a lot of cash to go buying alternative feed and so was wondering if anyone has tried beg, steal and forage foods - we have a large willow woodland and the sheep love knawing at branches, we also have a local food bank charity who has offered us any veg that comes in that's not appropriate for them but there's legislation on 'kitchen scraps' but is this technically classed as scraps if it's never entered a kitchen?
Next year I'm going to try growing fodder beet as a winter feed but has anyone experience of foraging for feed alternatives?


  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2019, 08:38:59 pm »
Divide your fields into smaller paddocks (portable electric fence won't cost more than £200 and will last years).
That way your ground will rest for a certain period and will have enough time to regrow etc. At the same time sheep will be forced to eat all sorts of different grasses - their favourite ones and the ones they don't really like that much.

You can produce a lot more good quality forage per acre per year using this very very simple method.
I've seen people grazing their cows in the UK like this all year round without feeding hay or silage. With sheep should be easier.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.


  • Joined May 2015
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2019, 09:29:46 pm »
Christmas is coming and you'll find that by early January a lot of people will be looking to get rid of trees... if you have the ability to collect them you may find a decent lot of forage for your flock!  Be sure that they haven't been sprayed with glitter or fake snow if you're feeding them though.
Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.


  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2019, 08:53:05 am »

Your primitives wont need lots but your Lleyns will need more. All sheep love willow. Get a good lick bucket.

I don't intend offense here, but if you can't afford hay (and I understand your problem with the hay you made) then maybe keep less stock. Are they in lamb?  Maybe sell the lleyns. We have had a hard frost overnight and my sheep have been down for hay.


  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2019, 11:36:56 am »
How many sheep do you have and how many acres do you have?

I wouldn't use the 'off' hay, if its covered in mouse wee and not bales tightly its been open to the air and might of absorbed enough moisture to go mouldy (dusty) which isn't good for anything to eat!

What is your grass situation like at the moment, it may be that they don't need any hay if they have plenty of grass left. If your grass is running low then I see no option but to buy in hay. Failing that reduce numbers!


  • Joined Sep 2016
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2019, 08:52:54 pm »
Thanks for all the ideas, we have approx 4acres split into 2fields which we strip graze using electric fencing to maximise grazing but our grass is incredibly wet as we are on a hill so with recent weather the grass is sodden reducing available grazing. Our sheep are not in lamb as they are family pets (initially brought in to keep the grass down!) but we will of course buy in hay if needed. Just wondered if people had used unsold veg from shops, given the restrictions on kitchen scraps but it's a shame if we've been offered it, or foraging other plants, one neighbour once said he gave his cows ivy in winter.
The Christmas trees are a good idea, we used to feed our goats ours every year!


  • Joined Feb 2016
  • Turriff
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2019, 09:02:07 pm »
Would this not classify as waste veg rather than kitchen scraps?  waste veg thrown out at any other (earlier) stage in production gets fed to animals.

 Id also say the sheep themselves will be the best judge of hay quality and if its not good enough they wont mind using it for bedding.  The toxo risk from mice shouldnt matter if you dont plan to lamb them.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2019, 09:06:15 pm by sheeponthebrain »


  • Joined Nov 2017
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2019, 08:08:01 pm »
if you have a grocer or better a supermarket you could arrange a deal to pick up their waste fruit and veg. I did many years ago at the city farm in london. we signed an agreement it would only be used for animals (like you none of ours were destined for the human food chain either) and they agreed to never contaminate the food with waste from the meat or dairy sections (which is easy- i worked for tescos and the departments are all in separate areas of the warehouse and they do not mix waste as all has to be accounted for in each section). We were offered more than we could use, but beware we had to take stuff we couldnt use as well as stuff we could (eg a load of lemons and onions on a few occasions)- but we just chucked it in the muck heap. I say supermarket is better as they prob have a legal dept that can draw up an agreement for you.


  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2019, 08:45:12 pm »
I understand your struggle an i'm sure the sheep may like a bit of veg as a snack but forage such as grass or hay really needs to make up the majority of their diet or you could potentially encounter a lot of issues.

Is there anywhere you could ask or look on (preloved, ebay, facebook marketplace) for anyone selling leftover last years hay. I imagine this would be pretty cheap as most will want 2019 hay but we have some 2018 hay left in the barn and just tried a bit on our sheep. It still smelt and looked very fresh and they loved it.

They won't need hay for a while yet and when I do use it, it will be this years but for non pregnant sheep / pets I'm sure it would be fine :)


  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Forage feed for winter
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2019, 09:08:31 am »
Carrots ,turnips , swedes , cabbage , brussel sprouts , kales, are all fed to sheep in large amounts


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