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If your animals are forage fed-- adding ALOT of corn bites you in the butt. Corn(ie starch) digestion needs different microbes than the grass or hay so you actually hurt gain. Small amounts of corn don't throw off the rumen too much.

Higher fibre less starch grains or byproducts(oats,soybean hulls,barley) work better if feeding alot.


If you are feeding hay or pasture just enough to supply roughage-- you lean the rumen microbes towards digesting grain so you can make use of more corn--- but.......

Starchy grains(ie corn ,wheat ect) are harder to keep the rumen balanced-- leading to acidosis and other potential problems. Less starch- higher fibre grains and byproducts(ie barley, soy hulls, oats) are safer.


Other than young lambs-- once sheep adjust to cracking corn- they do better with whole corn.

Its cheaper and leads to less digestive disturbances.But.... they can pick it out of a grain mix so only feed it whole alone.


Since grass and hay varies from year to year and place to place-- what you need to supplement is an educated guess balanced by what you actually see.

Nobody can tell you exactly what and when you need to supplement.


And you need to make sure that you have sufficient protien first-- without meeting that need the animal cannot make full use of the forages.


Flushing pays-- and concider useing a higher fat supplement- lots of studies are showing added fat improves conception and rebreed times.


Keep in mind that grass gains are almost always the cheapest-- over supplementing is throwing money away.


Get some forage samples taken several times thru the year. It will give you a base line to decide how what and when to supplement. Take a good look at the grass and coorelate the time of year and the condition to the sample results.

Over time you will get a feel for what your grass is able to do for you.

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Well--- I have learned to doubt people when they say they have good pasture.

Most have no idea that growing and green doesn't equate with good pasture.

And most don't understand the popcorn theory. So they don't have any idea how much forage they actually have available to support growth.


So don't pass over my suggestion to take good samples(a good mix of what the sheep are actually eating) of forage at different times to give you a REAL idea of what you have to work with. You may actually(and hopefully) need nothing more than a handful of corn or Barley certain times of the year.


I have never used Barley- and don't know if it has off paper benefits that I don't know about.I have seen amazing growth with oats(on goats)around here that the ration numbers don't support. But...


On paper--

Barley grain has AROUND 80% TDN--13% P--- 2% Fat

If your grass is good has around 8-10% P--- 50-55%TDN -- 1-2% Fat


Barley (at the above numbers) would give you a good-excellent growth TDN but it would be short in Protien for high production.


And you need to factor in cost/gain

If barley costs more than something else but gives you better gains its worth it.

If barley costs less than something else but gives you lower gains its not worth it.


Concider getting a feed blend-- if you need to feed more than a handful of supplement. with about 16% protien and a low fibre content(good indicator of higher TDN) and high fat content(3-6%) and you will probably be better off-even if it costs a little more. Not to mention you won't have to mess with minerals.


It really does take trial and error to get a feeding program down that is tweaked to your system. And using a one ingredient supplement can be tricky.Thats why there is a market for formulated feeds.


So now I have completely blown your mind and not answered your question at all

Welcome to the ration world


Oh yeah..... if you are working the stock regularly you have to factor in the calories they are useing up. They may need extra feed year round just to keep them in good shape.

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For my sheep. Clun Forset, Dorpers and Katahdins.


Flush ewes on a thick, lush pasture plus crushed oats/barley. My ewes either twin or trip....mostly twins.


First stage of PG, good quality grass hay and my pasture. My pasture is really, really good..it was seeded for organic horse hay and near the marshlands so it is thick and lush. I toss in some alfalfa hay but as a taster.


Mid-end term of pg...good alfalfa and good grass hay. Towards the end of pg, I feed crushed oats/barley. Do not feed too much or they get sick as stated above. I also feed cob (corn, oats, barley-rolled) Remember, grain is not much. My sheep get rolly-polly on alfalfa.


Make sure you have lots of salt and sheep mineral mix. Some areas lack selenium so be aware of that.


Be sure not to worm with Valbazen in the first stage of PG. Use Ivomec. Make sure you give the booster about 6 weeks before they lamb.


Hope that helps as a start. I also work my ewes (easy) until mid-way then after that I walk them to make sure they get exercise. (walk them from one pasture to another 1/3 mile) They will need exercise especially if your pasture is small.



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So where do you take this sample to get the pasture analized? To my local extension office or ? Also, I know you can get feed mixed to your personal requirements, I guess I can call Augusta co op for that... Sheesh, having good sheep is way more responsiblity than the crap sheep I am used to.


I thought Valbazan caused Abortions? Thanks guys!

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a. Pasture & Southern States 16% sheep pellets

b. Just pasture (and maybe hay depending on the weather) until about 6 weeks before lambing then supplement with a mix of 1/3 whole corn & 2/3 pellets

c. Orchard grass hay & corn/pellet mix

d. Creep feed soy or cotton seed meal & gradually switch to 18% pellets


Free feed Ration Maker loose minerals year round.


I'm fairly new to this too, but my sheep (Tunis) seem to do well on this regimen.


Whole corn is readily available around here, and I haven't had a problem with sheep picking it out of the mix.


The ag extension tested some hay samples from the pastures, and there are formulas (not exact) to convert to green nutritional percentages.

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I use Valbazen some during the summer because it's such a broad spectrum wormer. Posted a question about your same concern on another board, and people seemed to think it's okay if used according to label instructions. To be safe though, I wouldn't use it for a month prior to introducing the ram or during any stage of pregnancy.


Ivomec can be ineffective in parts of the sunny South where resistant barber pole worms are common.

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a. Ewes prior to introducing the ram

Turn onto best pasture (reserve for flushing), then gradually introduce 12, 14, up to 16 rations - Bartlett sheep blend is my favorite but the 14 is a Tractor Supply concentrate. All sheep blends. I find the addition of mineral in the formulae makes up for the slightly higher price of feeding this way. I never feed more than a pound per head at this stage.


What you are doing is tricking the bodies of your breeding into thinking that life is getting good and food supplies are increasing. Therefore, if you flush when the forage really is getting better (early fall around here or early to late spring), and you manage your grazing so they are really eating the forage that is out there, you can get away with a minimum of concentrates at this stage - but it's the only stage that you almost HAVE to feed, no matter what your system. As Karen said, you've got to have that fat content. That's another reason I like the Bartlett - even the twelve (which is labeled "Ewe feed") has higher fat content than plain grains.


b. Pregnant ewes

Drop down to grass while it lasts (rotational grazing). When the nutritional value drops, which it does pretty quick here, re-introduce the Bartlett 12. The 12 is a sweet feed, which I like (though hard to keep the guard dogs out of! (c:). It's cheap as dirt for what it is. I also go from free feed to no choice feed on the minerals - I have problems with calcium deficiency and since I went to this I've been able to skip some fussy management during lambing like BoSE shots and CalMAG drenches. I think the wheat in the sweet feed helps with selenium/calcium levels, too. It's important to keep feed levels consistent and not too high during this time - it's OK if they lose a little condition even. The lambs need to grow slowly so they will not be huge-mongous and cause difficult deliveries.


About six weeks out we start mixing Bartlett 18 in to bring the protein levels up until they are between 16 and 17. They are on the round bales by this time.


If it is a very bad year or the hay we've gotten is particularly crappy, a friend showed me a trick to make sure the ewes clean up every bit of roughage. We go all the way to 18 and the ewes will eat wood if we didn't set roughage in front of them - but we have no problems with pregnancy ketosis. I still don't feed a lot at this point, we usually have good enough hay to keep the ewes and lambs strong and healthy.


c. Nursing ewes

We start with whatever they've been eating but work up to about twice the amount. Ideally, you'd seperate your twinners from your singlers and feed accordingly but we haven't got the room for that. We just get really fat single lambs. (c; Triplet ewes are kept seperate for a week to two weeks until milk and family ties are well established. I've seen it noted that triplet ewes should get as much as four times what you'd feed the singlers but either my triplet lambs aren't big enough, or the ewes are aggressive enough to get what they need (I'd believe that), or it's not that important.


Again, I continue to mix in the mineral ration in addition to leaving it up to the ewes.


d. Lambs

The creep feeder is set up before the first lamb hits the ground. It's located near where we feed the mamas. We set soybean hay and Bartlett 18 in it. The lambs start exploring and nibbling stuff, imitating their moms, almost from day one, so they'll wander in and start nibbling pretty quick. By a week old they are actually eating the feed and pretending to eat the hay. By two weeks old they are seeking it out pretty aggressively.


I keep them on the 18 until a bit past weaning, then segue down to 16, 14, and if forage is like it was this year (not to mention my pocketbook), I go to all pasture. Mineral is imperative - a good selenium rich sheep formula - and no copper.


Many people "finish" their lambs in a final push on concentrates. I'm not sure how to do that as the last few years this would come when our bank accounts have hit bottom. I'm most concerned that the lambs have grown steadily and put on muscle, not fat. I would have offered a little 12 this year, probably, because we are only in the second year of real rotational grazing and the pasture isn't that great yet. They still did fine, though, considering.


The best thing I think is to have your goals in place and then figure out the best way that YOU can get that done with the sheep you have, the place you have, and the resources you have. Good luck - it's got to be exciting getting the new place going.

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It is exciting...Like the sheep end of it better and better the more I do...it is also far far easier to sell a sheep than it is a dog you have poured years of heart into. I have NEVER cried all the way home from the stockyard and I HAVE cried all the way home from a dog trial (when I have sold something) so I am thinking maybe we will shift the operation to a new direction yet again...lambs and lessons!



I found ivermec not to work at all here in VA with the heavy population I kept at my old place. I use Cydectin now and have had good results...

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Hey Sam. Don't use Valbazen within the first 45 days of breeding. Don't use Levasol/Tramisol in the first 30 days of breeding. I read some research recently that said Tramisol is still quite effective on most VA farms if you've never tried it. Like Tony, I've had good results with Southern States sheep pellets. For the past two years, we have skipped flushing. It does make a difference! We plan on flushing for sure this year. We actually do well not creep feeding, but I'm sure that will depend on your situation, pasture, etc. One thing I do during the last part of their pregnancy and when they have young lambs is to add alfalfa pellets to their regular pellets. I only do this though if the hay for that year is crappy. If your hay is really good, you shouldn't have to do that.

Good luck!


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This'll sound hokie (a pun) but call your Virginia Cooperative extension office. I'm a member of a Small Ruminant group that meets in Powhatan/Goochland

and is overseen by the extension office in that area. Va State college has excellent guys there who do research and can answer just about any question for large scale operations (you)and small ones (me!).

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Yes, second the vote for the VA Small Ruminant folks. The Virginia Sheep PRoducers' Association does great seminars (including a shearing school). There's one in either Jan or Feb that is a must for those around here getting seriously into sheep.


LOL on selling dogs vs selling sheep. I'm so glad to see those fat lambs go - it's like rolling a finished car off the lot. I have to keep mine until Nov this year and it's killing me. I've got only sixty-two sheep and six Border collies to work them because I can't bring myself to sell a dog. :rolleyes:

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Do not use Valbzen during breeding (one month prior) and the first tri-mester...I use it last to end of PG. It can cause birth defects in the lambs.


I only use Ivomec during flushing, breeding and first tri-mester.



Other people in my area have to flush their ewes quite a bit but my pasture is really nice and my ewes are fat when they go see the *boyfriend*

By having them being well-fed the body releases more eggs and you have a higher rate of twins, etc. This year I had 5 sets of trips.....four were from the Clun Forest and one from the Katahdin. I had to supplement the Katahdin trip but the Clun trips did just fine. I keep a super close eye on the the Clun trips but the Cluns have really rich milk and lots of it so those trips were fine. I have the creep set up early so the lambs had access to fresh grain and alfalfa.


A good soures is Pipestone vet:




They have a great article section.



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As usual, I'll jump in late and confuse things a little bit.


The question of barley versus corn versus pellets is something that can only be answered by looking at the local market conditions and considering the needs of the sheep. Whole grains (barley, corn, oats, wheat, etc.) are generally used as a source of energy -- just raw calories. Pasture tends to be a bulky feed, meaning that it is difficult for sheep to eat enough of it to do a whole lot better than maintain themselves. It's also highly variable. On poor quality pasture, they might be able to take in as little as .75 times maintenance. On very high quality pasture, they might be able to take in 2 to 2.5 times their maintenance requirement. On whole grains, they can take in 5 to 6 times their maintenance requirement.


So, if you have sheep that need to gain weight or body condition, they will do it faster on concentrates such as whole grains or pellets.


The discussion of whole grains versus pellets has to do with what you're needing to supplement. If you need to boost protein intake, whole grains will be a poor choice, as they are generally fairly low in protein -- barley being among the highest at about 13 percent. Corn runs about 8 percent, and the others are somewhere in between.


Pellets generally include a protein supplement such as soybean meal or cottonseed meal, and are available at levels of protein as high as 40 percent. They can also include microsupplements such as minerals and medications, which are extremely hard to incorporate into whole grains.


Pellets also tend to be lower in energy (TDN) than whole grains, so you need to feed more of them to achieve the same level of nutrition compared to whole grains. This fact also makes them a safer way of introducing starches into the diets of sheep that have not had them recently. While they still need to be introduced gradually, say starting with as little as a quarter pound per head per day for feeder lambs, they can be increased at a faster rate than whole grains. Once the lambs are on full feed with pellets, you can start to introduce cheaper whole grains and transition them over to the grains fairly quickly.


The biggest drawback to pellets is that they tend to be very expensive compared to whole grains, particularly if you can buy in bulk. Our latest delivery of 18 percent lamb pellets cost $251/ton. Whole corn is running about $170.


Choosing which whole grain to feed is really a matter of figuring out which costs the least. Don't look at the price per ton or per bag alone -- look at the price per ton of TDN. Take the cost of the feedstuff multiplied by the reciporacal of the percentage of TDN to get the cost per ton of TDN.


For example, suppose that barley cost $150 per ton and provided 80 percent TDN. The cost per ton of TDN would be 150*(100/80) or $187.50. If corn cost $160 a ton and provided 85 percent TDN, its cost per ton of TDN would be about the same as barley at $188.23.


(By way of comparison our pellet costs $320.51 per ton of TDN. That's why we use it as a transitional feed.)


The next bactch of questions is when to use these different supplements.


Flushing ewes has less to do with what they are being fed than their plane of nutrition. The important thing is that the ewes be on a rising plane of nutrition when the rams are introduced. You need to start managing this about two months before breeding is to begin. You want the ewes to be in body condition score three and rising at breeding time. If they are already at BCS 3 two months before breeding, you can put them on scrubby pasture and really force them to clean things up before shifting them. Your aim here is not to have them lose condition per se, but to have their bodies receive the message that times are a bit lean.


Then about two weeks before putting the rams in, move them onto high quality pasture, and keep them on it throughout the breeding season.


Ewes in early gestation require very little more than maintanance, but this is also not the time when you want to be remedying past nutritional shortfalls. If the ewes are in BCS 3, keep them there. If they start to slip, start to supplement.


In the last trimester, the nutritional needs of the ewes roughly double, and when they start lactation, they double again. Again, body condition score should be your guide here. In late gestation, we separate thin ewes for preferential feeding, and keep ewes rearing triplets separate from ewes with twins or singles during lactation and feed according to body condition.


Lambs can be creep fed a full concentrate ration from shortly after birth for quickest growth. In some pasture situations, this isn't really practical, and they simply eat what their mothers eat. If the lambs are to be finsihed on concentrates you should consider keeping at least some concentrates in the ewes' diets (and hence the lambs') to ease the transition to finishing.


I could go on, of course. But I'll spare you the details.

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Crap Bill, My friggin head is spinning...Hell, BCS 3????!!!!!! Where the hell do I find that chart???? My god man, I am thinking I need to go back to school and get a degree in agriculture. Ok so quick and dirty, I will get my pasture tested. I have no way of putting them on poor pasture as I only have one pasture (about 50 acres, but still only one till I have the money to split it) So would you advise I flush them about two weeks prior to introducing the rams and on pellets? or barley? and at what rate? and then post breeding should I just keep them on pasture or continue to supplement with grain or pellets? My god I am LD.


You know I have cried all the way home cause along with selling the good uns, guess what that leaves me with? Not the good uns (Just kidding Tuck and Libby..just kidding..keep yer collars on!)


Debbie Becca, thanks I will call them next week...


Thank you thank you....Take pitty on me, the border blond.

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Check this out.




BCS is your friend. It will tell you as much or more than any other management trick in the book.


If you've got 100 ewes running on 50 acres without subdivisions, it's probably going to be fairly poor pasture. The first question you need to ask is whether the sheep need to gain weight before breeding or just need to have the cue that things are looking up, which will induce them to shed more eggs per ovulation. If they need to be fed up, I would start them on barley or corn depending on price and availability. Start with a quarter pound per head per day, raise it to a half pound after about a week. From then on, you can probably raise it another quarter pound each week, until they are getting a pound per head per day.


If they just need a little nudge to make more lambs, I would probably use pellets for about two weeks before the rams go in at the rate of a half pound per head per day.


If they're not at least close to BCS 3, I would advise putting off breeding until they are fitter, which might take as much as a month to six weeks. You'll have more lambs and healthier if your ewes are in good fettle in early gestation, which is when most of the placental development takes place. Skinny ewes make smaller placentas, which not only means weaker lambs, but also appears to mean less milk to feed them -- regardless of lactational nutrional status.

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IT's a bit late in the season to improve your pasture, but just for future reference . . .


You can take a few rolls of electronet and rotate those ewes one piece at a time. They are around $100 a piece but if you consider the money you'll spend improving the pasture after continuous grazing all winter, and feeding concentrates when you could be benefiting from the first spring flush, it's an investment well worth it.


We use semi-permanent polywire which is cheapere but it's more difficult to set and move. I figure I saved about $150 in feed by rotating in early spring and using our pasture more efficiently.


If our pasture were better we could probably rotate right through the winter and substantially save on hay. We've got a neighbor who grazes 100 ewes on 15 acres. That's some seriously intense grazing but his lambs are gorgeous (club lambs that get some BIG TIME money).


Body condition scoring is one of the things covered in the VA Sheep Producers' symposium. So is the science of parasite control and diseases of the ewe, ram, and lamb. Not to mention marketing and nutrition of both the lamb and ewe.


Don't be scared. :D There are a few basics to get a handle on but once you've got those it's just meeting challenges as they come. I highly recommend Storey's Guide to Sheep - you can find it in Tractor Supply and even at some Border's/Barnes & Nobles. They have pictures of body scoring and discussion of what it feels like when you are handling them.


I love the rhythm of the breeding cycle (hmm, that's not quite what I mean, although . . ). I'm not real big on training for the sake of training (um, obviously) - breeding makes me get out there and do things like walk the sheep around to watch body and foot condition, and gauge nearness of partuition. Lambing means walking the ewes and newborns up from the field to jugs - the ultimate test of a dog's stock sense, I think. Weaning is quite a test of shedding skills - and if your fencing isn't secure you'll do it again and again before you stop all the holes! :rolleyes:


So, fifty acres, huh? On my neighbor's plan you could go up to, let's see, 750 ewes! I can guarantee you that after you lambed out that many you'd be giving all of US advice.

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If you're up for searching for an out of print book, look for The Sheep Raiser's Manual by William K. Kruesi, published by Williamson Publishing of Charlotte, Vt. It is the best compendium of information on sheep management, pasture improvement, and business management as regards sheep that I have ever seen. ISBN 0-913589-10-1


It cover BCS, lamb grading, ration formulation, pasture management, etc., etc. The numbers are a bit out of date, but the rationale behind them is very sound.

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I've got the Kruesi book. It's a terrific handbook on nutrition and of course grazing management. My only complaint is I read right through ten years ago when I first started this, and then again about two years ago (at which time much more of it made sense), and then again not too long ago, which was the first time I didn't feel somewaht at sea reading it. Which is a shame because it's full of invaluable information that a first-time stock owner really needs.


The two books complement each other well - Storey's has lots of information for the first-time sheep breeder and really focuses on the needs of the smallholder.


Oddly, I got started on forage management from a little book that isn't even sheep oriented. I think this one is still around - Jeffers' offered it last I checked. Pasture Profits Half our office is packed up in anticipation of getting this Katrina family so I can't give you the rest of the info. But I think I got mine from Amazon.

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