Supplementary Feeding of Sheep and Goats

Supplementary feeding is to supply lacking energy or protein for sheep or goats along with normal pasture grazing.

The majority of energy is lost while grazing. Sometimes the energy expenditure is higher than the intake. This results in the loss of body weight and takes a hole in profits.

How will Open Grazing or Continuous grazing affect Sheep and Goats?

The majority of Sheep and goats are maintained in Open Grazing or Continuous grazing systems where they cover 4 to 5 km daily in search of feed and fodder.

They are exposed to stress due to unbalanced nutrient supply, scarcity of pasture, environmental factors such as rain, radiation, and wind, and require additional energy for walking and thermoregulation. Sometimes the energy expenditure is more than the intake resulting in loss of body weight.

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In a stall-fed sheep of 30 kg body weight, energy expenditure is 4.2 MJ/day. While grazing, energy expenditure increases to 6.7 MJ in monsoon, 4.9 MJ in winter, and 5.9 MJ in summer. Overall, grazing sheep spend 43% more energy than the stall-fed sheep. Energy budgeting of sheep on pasture had indicated that sheep consumes 3.7, 6.2, and 3.7 MJ/day and spends 6.8,4.4 and 5.1 MJ/day in monsoon, winter and summer respectively. this results in loss of production and growth.

Sometimes the energy expenditure is more than the intake resulting in loss of body weight.

Apart from low energy intake in monsoon and summer, grazed pasture is deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, and trace elements. Therefore it is necessary to provide these nutrients in the form of a supplement.

Supplementary feeding can be adopted by different methods depending on the cost of supplements and needs. Some of the simple and most economical methods of supplementary feeding are listed below.

Anyone of the following recommendations can be used depending on the availability, need, and affordability in Goat Farming Business.

1. Protein Supplementation for Sheep and Goats

Sheep and Goats prefer thin stemmed legume and grass hay. In monsoon, dried leaves and pods of legumes such as sun hemp, pigeon pea, green gram, a black gram at the rate of 50 to 100 g per sheep per day would provide adequate protein and phosphorus. Horse gram hay is also a good source of protein, A flock of 100 animals would need 5 to 10 kg of legume hay or by-products per day.

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In Summer and Winter, cultivated green legume pastures such as stylosanthes, lucerne, Subabul, sesbania, gliricidia can be fed at the rate of 200 to 500 g per sheep per day. Partial wilting of green legumes is necessary to avoid the incidence of bloat. The incidence of bloat can be also be minimized by harvesting legume pasture after flowering.

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Oilseed cakes such as groundnut cake, cottonseed cake, sunflower cake at the rate of 50 to 100 g per sheep per day can be fed in any season of the year. For a flock of 100 sheep, this amounts to 5 to 10 kg oil seed cake. If the farmers find this too expensive then follow this for cheap goat feed or cheap sheep feed, by providing groundnut cake soaked drinking water. Soak about 2 to 3 kg of groundnut cake in 100 liters of water in the morning and allow sheep to drink water in the evening after return from grazing. Providing groundnut cake soaked drinking water will avoid competition among animals and ensure access to drinking water by all animals in the flock. This is the most effective and economical way of providing expensive nutrient supplements. This method is not suitable for cottonseed cake because cottonseed cake protein is relatively insoluble in water.

Chaffing facilitates higher intake to meet the energy needs of these animals.

The most economical method of providing protein is through Urea supplementation. However adequate care should be exercised in delivering urea in a safe way. the safest way of feeding urea as a protein supplement is through the enrichment of thin stemmed straw such as rice straw or ragi straw. Dissolve 20 g urea (about one matchbox measure) in half a liter of water and sprinkle on one kg of straw in the morning. Feed to the flock in the evening after return from grazing. A flock of 100 sheep would require 5 to 10 kg of urea treated straw.

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Apart from the above, pods of legume trees such as acacia, rain tree etc can also be used as protein supplements to grazing sheep and goats.

2. Energy supplementation for sheep and Goats

Thin stemmed grass hay such as Rhodes, green panic or cereal and millet straw are cheaper sources of energy. Thick stemmed grass hay such as Napier, guinea or cereal straw such as sorghum can also be used but they need to be chaffed to finer chaff size of not more than 1 cm.

Cultivated green grasses are also a good source of energy, but the high water content would limit their intake. Therefore in monsoon season, hay or dry fodder should be used as supplements whereas in winter and summer seasons, chaffed green fodder can be used as an energy supplement. Chaffing facilitates higher intake to meet the energy needs of these animals.

3. Cereal Grains

Whole cereal grains such as maize can be fed. however, this should be fed in limited quantities. Feeding cereal grains at the rate of 10 to 20 g per animals per day is a good practice. This means, for a flock of 100 sheep, a grain supplement of 1 to 2 kg per day would be sufficient.

Feeding cereal grains at the rate of 10 to 20 g per animals per day is a good practice.

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When urea treated straw is given as a supplement, the quality of grain-fed can be increased by twice without any fear of inducing ruminal acidosis. To avoid greedy animals eating more grains, grains should be fed as whole grains and they should be spread on the floor instead of in the manger.

4. Multi nutrient Feed Block

Urea-molasses mineral block can be used as n energy protein mineral supplement. Since this is in the form of a solid block, the intake is limited and all animals will have access to the block. the average intake during the summer months is about 80 to 100 g per day per animal or for a flock of 100 sheep 8 to 10 kg per day which is equivalent to 3 blocks. The block is of 3 kg and costs Re 35 per block.

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5. Supplementary feeding of nursing lambs and kids

Although nursing lambs of native breeds of sheep and goats have growth potential of 100 to 120 g per day, because of low milk production of ewes, lambs do not grow as fast as they should. Therefore, two strategies should be adopted in feeding management of nursing lambs :

  • Feeding ewes to increase milk production
  • Feeding lambs to promote rumen development so that they start early on grasses.

Provide nursing ewes with protein and energy supplements listed above.

Newborn lambs should be trained to eat germinated horse gram (Alfalfa ).  About 10 to 20 g of germinated horse gram should be fed to nursing lambs in a group of lambs. Feeding in a group is important because the newborn lambs learn to eat by observing older lambs. Germinated horse gram is necessary because the teeth of lambs are not strong enough to chew hard grains. This would promote rumen development and the lambs tend to start on solid food at an earlier age.

SL No.IngredientsPercentage
1Grains – Jowar, Bajara, Rice, Maize35 to 40
2Bran – Wheat bran, deoiled rice bran, lentil chuni20
3Oil cakes – sunflower, coconut, rape seed, cotton seed, groundnut, Safflower20
4Other ingredients   Molasses/Jaggery treacle Rice polish Urea Mineral mixture Calcite powder 10 5 to 7 1 1 1

Special Notes:

  1. Use maximum available feed ingredients to get a better amino acid profile.
  2. It is beneficial to have pelleted concentrate feed but if pelletizer is not available this mixture can be given in the form of mash.

6. Suggested Concentrate Feeding schedule for Sheep and Goats

SL No.Sheep/GoatGram/each/day
1Suckling lambs/kids below 3 months (15 days after birth)50
23 to 6 months old lambs/kids150 – 200
3Above 6 months and empty goats/sheep200 – 250
4Pregnant goats/sheep300 – 400
5Lambed sheep/ Kidded goats350 – 400
6Breeding bucks/rams400
  • Consider the above chart as guideline purpose only, feeding measurement changes depending on the live weight of animals.

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