Hoof health probably isn’t a top worry for most sheep and goat owners. But did you know that lameness reduces the overall health and profitability of your herd? Lame animals do not travel freely to water and forage and thus have lower feed intakes than animals with healthy hooves. This translates into less milk production, slower growth rates and even diminished conception rates. Lame rams or bucks will not actively seek out ewes and does in heat and may not breed even if they do mount. Fortunately, most lameness can be significantly reduced or eliminated with proper management. Lameness is an issue for both the commercial and the pet owner.
Ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) have the unique ability to utilize materials which are undigestible by humans (grasses, forbes and other roughages) and convert them into highly nutritious food for human consumption. This is made possible by the symbiotic relationship between rumen microbes and the ruminant. The ability to convert inexpensive, underutilized roughages into high quality meat and milk is the main advantage ruminants have over other commercially raised livestock (pork, poultry, etc.). Given that forages are among the least expensive feeds available, it goes without saying that anything we can do to maximize forage intake and/or utilization is going to positively affect economic returns.
I am often faced with questions about self-fed mineral consumption. Unfortunately, many producers only have a vague idea about the amount of mineral consumed by their livestock. And then when mineral consumption alters for any reason, they don’t have a good baseline to compare with. For this reason, it is imperative that you monitor mineral consumption.
What can you do when your hay quality isn’t the best and hay is in short supply so buying better hay isn’t an option? Well, research has shown that protein supplementation can increase digestibility of low quality forages up to 10%. That’s like having 10% more hay in your barn! Here’s how it works…
With the recent spike in vitamin E prices affecting the cost of mineral/vitamin supplement products, many are now taking a hard look at their current supplement program. Which begs the question, why is vitamin E added to supplements and how much vitamin E is really necessary?
Many sheep and goat producers unwittingly sabotage their mineral supplement program by providing yellow sulfur salt blocks for the purpose of external parasite control in place of or in addition to granular mineral supplements or mineral blocks. All one need do is consult any of the internet chat groups or visit the local sale barn to hear armchair veterinary advice about the so-called advantages of feeding sulfur salt to livestock. This article is intended to debunk the myths surrounding the feeding of sulfur for the purpose of parasite control and to bring to your attention the detrimental effects of excessive sulfur in the diet of sheep.