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Author Topic: do I need to be feeding my sheep  (Read 10679 times)

wellies

  • Joined Jul 2010
  • Shrewsbury
    • Fairfax Ryeland Flock
    • Facebook
do I need to be feeding my sheep
« on: November 20, 2011, 06:12:39 pm »
Hi everyone,

I have 6 beautiful Ryeland sheep (5 ewes and 1 tup). Last year they did very well throughout the winter on having some of the maedow hay I give to the horses howver this year I am hoping they will be in lamb, hence the addition of Ted the tup  ;D. Do I need to provide them with any additional feed to support their pregnancy or a mineral block. They have access to a good amount of grazing and look in fantastic condition, if not slightly rotund (although I think as a breed they are realatively round bodied?). I was just hoping you more experienced sheep people would be able to offer me some advice on the best feed options until spring when the grass is growing again.

Thanks in adavance  :)

jaykay

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2011, 06:25:56 pm »
I feed mine small amounts of 'cake' now, just so that they come to me. I will increase this in the last couple of months before lambing. They have a mineral block now, through the winter.

Hopewell

  • Joined Apr 2011
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2011, 07:00:12 pm »
If your sheep are slightly rotund then they don't need extra feed and I wouldn't be giving any hard feed now. As the grazing gets eaten they may benefit from hay or other forage. The aim should be to maintain body condition in the first third of pregnancy, to prevent embryonic loss. If they are slightly rotund they can then afford to lose some condition during the middle third of pregnancy, as fat sheep are more prone to lambing difficulties and twin lamb disease (so are thin sheep), and then feed them hard feed in the last 6 weeks or so. However the first year we had sheep (Llanwenogs) I think I started feeding about 8 weeks before they were due to lamb and had some lambing problems including a caesarean. Since then the ewes didn't get fed until 3-4 weeks prior to lambing and have lambed mostly on their own and no more caesareans - the ewes aren't as fat and the lambs not as big. They did get hay for much of the winter when  we had more of them, as there wouldn't have been been enough grazing on its own. It will depend on how much grazing they have, whether they have twins or not (we assumed with Llanwenogs that we would have twins), and you will need to keep an eye on body condition especially towards the end of pregnancy.

Hazelwood Flock

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Dorset.
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2011, 08:03:06 pm »
Check that their rotund appearance is indeed down to being in good condition, rather than just being well fleeced! Feel their backs, if you can feel the spine as rounded knobbles they should be o.k. it wouldn't hurt to offer some hay, they won't eat it unless they want it. My Greyface Dartmoors have been enthusiastically munching hay for the last 3 weeks, and are mostly due to lamb in february. I cake them all the year round for easy management, increasing in steps from 6 weeks before lambing. Works for me!  :)
Not every day is baaaaaad!
Pedigree Greyface Dartmoor sheep.

jaykay

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2011, 08:27:53 pm »
Yes, forgot to say mine also have ad lib hay!

The way I check for condition is like this. Put your hand, thumb one side, fingers the other, either side of the spine, after the ribs but before the pelvis. Squeeze your thumb and fingers under the spine. If your hand goes right under =1 or 2, underweight. Hand will hardly squeeze at all = 4 or 5, overweight. Inbetween =3, just right.

Easiest thing to do is to get someone to show you (she says, realising how difficult it is to convey in words only, I have been gesticulating as I type  :D)

wellies

  • Joined Jul 2010
  • Shrewsbury
    • Fairfax Ryeland Flock
    • Facebook
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2011, 08:01:38 am »
Thank you for your comments. They have a handful of nuts (and I do mean a handful between them) so that they come for a quick check over in the morning and hay ad lib, if they don't eat it the Kune Kunes do so it doesn't go to waste  :) At present they have access to about 11 acres of grazing (8 they share with 3 horses) and another 3 where they can get to and graze on their own. Do you think they require a vit and mineral lick to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need. With the horses they get a supplement to ensure sufficient balance to their diet as they are all good doers and don't require a hard feed even in the winter  ???
Thank you again for all your comments, it's great to get help from more experienced people  :wave:

Rich/Jan

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2011, 08:39:36 am »
Hi - we have just started giving ours mineral supplements and salt licks.  Our land is not brilliant pasture land and consequently we feel they need extras.  We also feed hay.  Our are due to lamb from beginning of February.  Just hope we dont get very bad weather as hay and straw here in France is in short supply and very expensive.  Farmers have been importing lorry loads from Spain and Portugal at a considerable cost.  Same problem for farmers everywhere - making sure they have sufficient provision for their animals and not only just for the winter - we've all been there.!!

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2011, 09:19:12 am »
Do you think they require a vit and mineral lick to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.

Not sure (sorry, can't remember) where you are, wellies, but pretty much the whole of the UK is copper-deficient and a lot of it is also cobalt & selenium deficient too.

Pregnant ewes of some breeds need copper; the effects of deficiency being a condition in the lambs called 'swayback' as affected lambs may be unsteady on their back legs.  Some breeds do not need (and could be poisoned by) extra copper, such as Texels.  I don't know about Rylands, so hopefully someone who knows the breed can tell you whether they should get copper.

If you don't usually give minerals then I would certainly give a mineral drench either before or after tupping and again a couple of months before lambing.  The thing with drenches is you can be sure every ewe is getting a dose, whereas they don't all necessarily lick the blocks and get as much.

If you check about the copper and buy a mineral block accordingly it won't hurt to have a block out anyway.  And some people swear by rock salt being available to all stock at all times - it certainly won't hurt.

BTW, in case you weren't aware, you will need to vaccinate the ewes a few weeks before lambing to pass immunity to the clostridial diseases on to the newborn lambs.  Heptavac-P or Covexin-8 are the usual choices.  If your ewes are not already on one of these systems you should either give them an initial course now (two jabs, 4-6 weeks apart) and another a few weeks before lambing, or risk leaving their primary shot until 6 weeks before lambing with the booster 2 weeks before.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

VSS

  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Pen Llyn
    • Viable Self Sufficiency.co.uk
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2011, 09:24:28 am »
Ryelands are not considered to be particularly susceptible to copper poisoning. Having said that, I do know someoe who lost a ryeland ewe last winter to copper poisoning, but I think that was a one off, rather than a general indication of copper intolerance.

A general purpose mineral block would do no harm, but this early on, make sure it is a mineral supplement rather than a feed block.
The SHEEP Book for Smallholders
Available from the Good Life Press

www.viableselfsufficiency.co.uk

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2011, 12:22:52 pm »
wellies, it's great to have the forum here for advice and of course do use it.  But I do think if you are inexperienced and have ewes in lamb you really should get yourself a good book as well. 

There's a page of books on the website here http://www.accidentalsmallholder.net/books/category/sheep/ - you'll see some commendations by members against some of them  :)

Hope you don't mind me saying so.  :)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

humphreymctush

  • Joined Jul 2010
  • orkney
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2011, 02:39:38 pm »

A general purpose mineral block would do no harm, but this early on, make sure it is a mineral supplement rather than a feed block.

I now avoid feed blocks/buckets altogether because of excessive wear on the inscisors
salt licks like Rockies, boluses or mineral drenches all do the job.

wellies

  • Joined Jul 2010
  • Shrewsbury
    • Fairfax Ryeland Flock
    • Facebook
Re: do I need to be feeding my sheep
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2011, 06:23:25 pm »
Hi, thanks for the comments. I just really wanted to get some feel for what you guys are doing with your sheep and I am really grateful for your helpful answers. I do read alot to try and ensure I am doing the best for the sheep. The ewes have been with us for nearly 18 months now as we wanted to get some experience before embarking on lambs. I totally agree that it is important to read and try to understand good practice however I also think one can learn alot from asking questions and using others experience as a good source of information. I am an equine lecturer and assessor and I would not expect my students to learn from just reading as sometime the literature does not always help in a hands on practical way and does not account for individual differences in practice and often gives a generalised approach. I shall add some of the books to my Christmas list so I can have them on hand for emergencies and a source of reference. I am also lucky enough to have some very helpful neighbouring farmers who are willing to help out with my lambing and also give me some experience with their lambing as theirs are due before mine :)

Again, thank you all for the advice it's much appreciated  ;D

 
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