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Author Topic: Feeding sheep...  (Read 7695 times)

farmvet

  • Joined Feb 2014
Feeding sheep...
« on: December 29, 2017, 10:04:56 pm »
3 times in the last few weeks I've been called to semicomatosed moribund novice smallholders sheep.  They have collapsed after a sleetly night and show typical signs of hypothermia/hypoglycaemia. On each occasion the affected animal is just a bag of skin and bone with the remaining animals in similar condition on small bare paddocks. Extensive lab work confirms there is no real underlying disease process and simple starvation is the main cause.
So PLEASE - learn to condition score your sheep.  You need to handle them to see what's hidden under the fleece.
                - Don't believe Dr Google that feeding sheep before the last month of pregnancy will give you big lambs.  If your grass isn't at least 4cm (2 fingers) you really do need to offer hay... and if they eat it offer more....
                - There really isn't any breed that should be a walking skeleton.. no honestly there isn't
                 - If your unsure you can always ask your vet/ a "proper" farmer to come and have a look, assess your sheep and paddocks, maybe do some worm egg counts. Even if your sheep aren't at crisis point money spent now will reap dividends in avoiding deaths and having them in optimal condition for lambing.

I'm sure I'm ranting at the converted here but please keep an eye on your less informed neighbours!

Penninehillbilly

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2017, 10:38:48 pm »
Thanks farmvet, a timely warning, I turned mine onto some lower sheltered land, giving a bit of top up hay and ae few nuts, they look fat but I'll double check in the morning. 
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 12:16:50 pm by penninehillbilly »

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2017, 12:38:35 am »

<< Don't believe Dr Google that feeding sheep before the last month of pregnancy will give you big lambs.  If your grass isn't at least 4cm (2 fingers) you really do need to offer hay... and if they eat it offer more....>>


I so agree with this point - every farm and smallholding is different, so what works for one can be totally wrong for another.

« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 02:12:15 am by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2017, 08:10:59 am »
Will also add that the best laid plans can change because of the weather. Sheep round here are losing condition fast due to all the rain we’ve had  :raining: 

Backinwellies

  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2017, 08:17:58 am »
Agree with Twizzel 4cm of grass when it has done nothing but rain  :raining:  for months has barely any nutritional value ....  add hay!  (also they can be fussy about hay too ... make sure it is fresh nice smelling hay)
Linda

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shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2017, 12:39:51 pm »
I totally understand it must be difficult for inexperienced sheep keepers to know what is correct ,when the standard sheep book says " no concentrates needed until 6 wks before lambing " this is why I keep stressing all sheep are individuals and you MUST learn to condition score  and for smallholders with a few sheep handled every day checking should be easy ,  As many of you know I am large commercial 1000+ ewes and yes I need to watch expenditure BUT if in lamb ewes go lean early / mid pregnancy it can cost  a lot to try and save the LIFE of the ewe & lambs .    OK 2015  I started feeding silage  16th jan    2016  started   12th jan  this year  22nd dec plus all ewes 200gms nuts  WHY because it was freezing then snow then rain and the grass was dying and the sheep looking miserable , now that they are all eating plenty of silage I will stop the nuts to all but the sheep  condition score  2.5 or less and these will get more nuts  0.5kg .   Point being there are no hard and fast rules ,if you live in the south east and have plenty of grass and sheep that hold condition eg texel then  nuts 4-6wks before lambing will work BUT  if you are on the north west with no grass the sheep need you to provide every thing , hay /silage  ad lib and an energy bucket or nut if neccasary

pharnorth

  • Joined Nov 2013
  • Cambridgeshire
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2017, 02:15:03 pm »
Thank you for the reminder @farmvet   It must be horribly frustrating and upsetting for you to see basic husbandry issues like this. I guess we all have to learn and I am seeing some of this with horses near me too. When you spend all week in a nice warm office people can be slow to realise that a few days relentless wind and rain can become a few weeks and the nutrition need ramps ups. Not to mention the benefits of a shelter.  Anyway you have spurred me on to get out of my seat and take some more hay and a lick bucket out....

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2017, 05:11:13 pm »
I agree.  I think a steady plane of nutrition is essential and when the weather's bad or grazing's poor that means hay, haylage or silage and a mineral and/or energy bucket, irrespective of condition score.  I have a scanner due in tomorrow and there's an old ewe with a skimpy fleece that will stay behind with a pal if she scans in-lamb.  She's in good condition with sound teeth but she can have ad lib hay as well as grazing and the option to go into a shed if she wants.

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2017, 10:05:55 pm »
Can I give the beginners point of view please?  When we first got sheep, I went from panicking that they were too thin one minute, to too fat the next!  We certainly feed the Zs far more than we used to, having gotten over the fear of being too kind to them and having big lambs etc. Basically they're a high input / high output kind of breed, and need to be treated like that.

This also reinforces Womble's first rule of smallholding, which is "It's all about the context". We're raising a lowland breed at 220m altitude in the middle of Scotland. This means that if somebody raising Borerays in Norfolk followed our plan, it would most likely end in disaster, and vice-versa.

One thing I did wrongly to begin with was to only press down on top of the spine. Actually, you have to use quite a bit of pressure, and must feel along the side of the spine at the 'short ribs' as well (and under the short ribs if you can).



For info and comment, our planned condition scores for the Zwartbles throughout the year are:

Sep 3
Oct 3
Nov 3.5 (Tupping early Nov)
Dec 3.5
Jan 3.5
Feb 3
Mar 3 to 2.5 (start feeding concentrates 6 weeks before lambing)
Apr 3 to 2.5  (lambing during April. Keep feeding concentrates until mind May to ensure good milk yield)
May 2.5
Jun 2.5
Jul 2.5 (lambs weaned at roughly 16 weeks old. Most Z flocks seem to creep feed, so that they can get the lambs away to the butcher straight off their mums. We haven't tried that yet, and consequently ours are finished on grass by mid October)
Aug 3

Currently our flock ewes are CS 3, having lost 0.5 point at least over the last couple of months. The gimmers are still nice and fat though. As a result, I'm going to split them up into two flocks, and will give the older ewes some concentrates as well as hay to hopefully prevent them from losing any more condition.

I'm still learning though, so I'd love to hear comments from more experienced keepers on this. In particular, I'm still quite vague as to exactly how much concentrate to feed in the run up to lambing and afterwards, so would like to have better figures in mind for this that we can then work up or down from according to conditions. Any thoughts folks?
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 10:08:21 pm by Womble »
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2017, 12:48:58 pm »
3 times in the last few weeks I've been called to semicomatosed moribund novice smallholders sheep.  They have collapsed after a sleetly night and show typical signs of hypothermia/hypoglycaemia. On each occasion the affected animal is just a bag of skin and bone with the remaining animals in similar condition on small bare paddocks. Extensive lab work confirms there is no real underlying disease process and simple starvation is the main cause.
So PLEASE - learn to condition score your sheep.  You need to handle them to see what's hidden under the fleece.
                - Don't believe Dr Google that feeding sheep before the last month of pregnancy will give you big lambs.  If your grass isn't at least 4cm (2 fingers) you really do need to offer hay... and if they eat it offer more....
                - There really isn't any breed that should be a walking skeleton.. no honestly there isn't
                 - If your unsure you can always ask your vet/ a "proper" farmer to come and have a look, assess your sheep and paddocks, maybe do some worm egg counts. Even if your sheep aren't at crisis point money spent now will reap dividends in avoiding deaths and having them in optimal condition for lambing.

I'm sure I'm ranting at the converted here but please keep an eye on your less informed neighbours!


I did originally post a long reply to this, but deleted it.  Now I have had time to contemplate the issues more, a few points have risen to the top.  I agree with most points made in the discussion, but:


The target for your post is smallholders, and clearly smallholders come in all shapes and sizes, acreages and levels of skill.  However, and here we reopen old arguments, please don't forget that what you refer to as 'real' farmers can be just as challenged for land, skill, grass quality, funds, as a smallholder, but as a vet you may not see the evidence, if they never call you in.  I live next door to such a 'real' now ex farmer, so I know this can occur and be covered up for quite a while.


On the occasions you have attended these horrible situations, I hope you take the opportunity to educate the sheep's owners about being over stocked, underfeeding and the dangers, and how to correct this.  Not in a patronising or blaming way, as I can't imagine there are many folk so blind they can't see they have a problem, but being supportive and understanding.  The fact they have called you shows they know they need help, so you are there to give it. It will be so hard to swallow your fury, but you are in an ideal position to give fact based advice.


Condition scoring - yes, no sheep should ever be a bag of bones, but it is the case that certain breeds, especially Northern Shorttails, store their fat within their bodies less than along the back, so a slightly lower condition score as measured along the spine and tail head is correct for these breeds.  A condition score of 3.5 for my own breed is a bit fat.  Yes, we should all know how to condition score, but we should also learn how to interpret it, as one size does not fit all.


<<< semicomatosed moribund novice smallholders >>>
Sorry, I couldn't resist highlighting this - I know it's not what you said but it's quite funny, in spite of the serious discussion :coat:
« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 12:51:35 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

harmony

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2017, 01:25:08 pm »
It would be a shame to lose sight of the OP point and get stuck on the difference between "smallholders" and "proper farmers" as they clearly said "novice smallholder" and indeed a "proper farmer" could be a more experienced smallholder.

CarolineJ

  • Joined Dec 2015
  • North coast of Scotland
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2017, 05:34:07 pm »
Very short on grass up here now, but they have ad-lib hay and hi-energy Crystalyx and seem to be holding condition okay on that.  No hard feed until 6 weeks before lambing, other than the occasional scoop as a treat if I want to bring them all over, but if we get a prolonged spell of bad weather, they'll get 18% ewe lamber pellets to support them

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2017, 06:30:09 pm »
semicomatosed moribund novice smallholders

Oi!! I resemble that remark!!
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

harmony

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2017, 07:01:00 pm »
semicomatosed moribund novice smallholders

Oi!! I resemble that remark!!


You and lots of others by the time the New Year arrives!


shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Feeding sheep...
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2017, 07:07:19 pm »
Womble have you looked at AHDB  better returns programme  "ewe nutrition "

 

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