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Author Topic: Sheep won't eat hay  (Read 499 times)

Michelle.L.

  • Joined May 2021
Sheep won't eat hay
« on: October 23, 2021, 11:16:09 pm »
Hello again,

After a particularly dry summer our grass is in such a sorry condition that I already had to start feeding hay to our two pet wethers (cheviot, born this spring). One of them chomps away quite happily, the other doesn't seem to touch it. Obviously I can't say for sure he isn't eating any but so far I have only seen him sniff the hay, never eating it. Have tried offering it in a net (extra small holes so no danger of feet etc. getting trapped), from the hand, from a trough, from an empty feed bag with a hole in it (some crofters do it that way up here). It has been much too windy here lately to spread it on the grass, so couldn't try that yet.
Could he just be better at finding nutritious things to eat still than the other one? When I give them hedge or willow cuttings he eats them very greedily, definitely seems hungrier than usual... So I'm not sure if he maybe just doesn't "get" the concept of eating hay?
Is there any other way to interest him in it? Or should I just wait and he'll eat it when he needs it? It's lovely meadow hay and as I said the other one likes it very much ...

Grateful for any tips :-)

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2021, 12:14:45 am »
You mention offering hay in an empty feed sack.  We tried that for shows and so on until we found sheep had stretched the hole when removing the hay enough that they could get their heads inside the bag.  If there was a hole on both sides then they would push their heads right through, with a danger of hanging.  Even with only one hole they can get their heads right inside the bag which is a bit dangerous.  The string used to hang the bag can also hang the sheep - LOOPS of any sort can kill sheep, even just the baler twine left on a bale.
The best way to feed hay is a proper hay rack made of galvanised metal, with a strong mesh side.  For only two sheep you can get small racks which hang over a door or hurdle (make sure there's a lid). A larger hay heck would waste a whole lot of hay which would get old before it was eaten.
You haven't mentioned for how long you have been offering hay. It can take a while for sheep to get the hang of it.  Your mention of him happily and greedily eating willow etc makes me wonder if he is seeking a bit more nutrition rather than the bulk of hay.  They will need good access to clean water when eating hay and will drink more than during the summer when they get more liquid from grass.  Otherwise, just see how he goes and check his condition isn't dropping.  btw, sheep don't have to be eating constantly, they need time to chew the cud and to stand and stare  :D
« Last Edit: October 24, 2021, 12:16:59 am by Fleecewife »
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Backinwellies

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  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2021, 07:37:54 am »
My experience is sheep will eat anything else first before hay ..... so he may well be getting enough from your pasture even if it doesnt look like it.  Grass was growing here till last week.    Mine tuck into hay when hungry.

Put a proper hay rack in a shelter with a little hay in.  Provide fresh water and little hay daily (2 sheep will eat very little!)  and just monitor condition. (livestock are designed to lose at least 1 condition score in winter ....  nothing to worry about down to CS 2.

Oh and we all eat more chocolate and icecream than we should .....  other offered stuff is likely to be ate with gusto!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2021, 07:39:36 am by Backinwellies »
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Michelle.L.

  • Joined May 2021
Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2021, 12:30:18 pm »
I've been offering hay for a little over a week now. The other sheep has been eating it from they one - he (or they) have almost polished off a square bale already.

Re nutrition: I have started giving them a small hand full of pellets for that purpose, they have a salt lick stone and get a mineral drench twice a year (next in December).
Would a feed block be better than pellets?
Will also speak to neighbouring crofters to see if we can use an additional field for winter grazing this year.

Re hayrack: I haven't found one yet that would fit over the walls of their shelter (repurposed coal/bin storage, so thick block walls). The other sheep has taken very well to the net and there is very little waste, so I'm tempted to stick with that. What is the advantage of racks in comparison to nets when they are properly used so that no sheep can get trapped?

Thanks again! :-)

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2021, 12:58:59 pm »
Probably your net will be fine.  Our sheep have horns so tend to get caught in a variety of unexpected things.  Make sure you check frequently that all is well.  A solid heck does away with risk altogether, but with your two sheep you will be able to supervise them closely. I think no 2 will eat hay when he's ready.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

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

Penninehillbilly

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2021, 10:43:30 am »
Last year I tried putting a couple of posts in, with stock fence right round  both sides to make a narrow holder. Stuffed hay in there. Worked well for a few sheep, topping up as required.
I wonder if damping the hay would give it a fresher smell? Or spray with a weak molasses solution?


Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2021, 02:04:42 pm »
I have found my sheep to be very fussy on their hay, much more so than the horses.  They do not like wet hay so i have to cover any bales fed outside.  If it gets wet then it has to go to the horses.

Michelle.L.

  • Joined May 2021
Re: Sheep won't eat hay
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2021, 09:19:34 pm »
So, after spending almost the entire day in the shelter because our sheep are just big sissies who don't like to get their fleece wet in torrentiel rain, he finally got hungry enough to dig into the hay ;-)

 

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