Economical food for sheep/goats/alpacas

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currey's picture
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Economical food for sheep/goats/alpacas

Hi, We are a small hobby farm with damaraxdorper sheep, miniature goats/ alpacas are we are wondering what would be the most cost efficient supplemantary feed we could feed to all 3?? All have reasonable grazing in their paddocks and at present we are feeding goats/alpacas lucerne hay and alpaca pellets/lucerne chaff and molasses . And the sheep are getting mixed grain and lucerne hay  ......but it is starting to cost us a fortune in feed and we are wondering what others feed their stock to help reduce feeding prices??  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

barb's picture
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Joined: 23/11/2011 - 9:38am

Hi,

In answer to your question. My name is Barbara and I have some knowledge of feed requirements for ruminants  and hope that the following may be of help to you.

If you have enough pasture to keep your stock in breeding condition (sleek but not overweight) then supplementary feeding is really only necessary to keep them quiet (tame) and easy to handle. You haven't said how many head of stock you are running to the hectare. However,  I note that though you have said you have enough pasture to feed the stock you have, you are still feeding them a variety of supplements.

Some of the supplements you are feeding are quite expensive- for instance, Lucerne pellets, hay or chaff. These should not be fed in any quantity at all to male ruminants because the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is out of whack. Ruminants require a balance of Calcium, two to phosphorus one.  Lucerne has the reverse of this, being Calcium one to Phosphorus two. Because the male urethra is long and thin, kidney stones formed by this dietary imbalance are often not able to pass out and the animal can develop a condition called water belly when the bladder bursts due to this blockage. This is fatal.

It is also not good to feed pregnant animals large quantities of lucerne products in their final weeks of pregnancy for the same reason. Doing so can predispose the animal to milk fever. A bit complicated to explain here.

The second item you are feeding: Molasses, is quite expensive to buy in small quantities. It can help to make poor quality hay more palatable  but should be fed in very small quantities because it contains thiaminase which destroys vitamin B1. If fed in large quantities it can cause a condition called Cerebrocortical necrosis (Star Gazing). You can read more about this and the treatment for it in my book Farming Meat Goats.

I would suggest that you enquire at your local rural supplier about a feed called Hobby Mix which contains a reasonably good balance of grains and roughage and can be fed to most ruminants and horses. If the supplement is only to keep the animals quiet, then for goats and sheep the requirement is only around 125 grams per day per head. Just enough to have them come when you call them.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Please don't hesitate to ask for anything that I have said here that may need to be clarified.

Cheers,

Barbara Vincent.

charlie's picture
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Joined: 31/05/2011 - 9:44am

Supplementary feeding should ideally be used for just that, as a supplement to the pasture on offer. Feeding is usually only required when the quantity or quality of pasture on offer is not sufficient to meet the animals nutritional requirments. Periods of high nutritional demand, like the last trimester of pregnancy and lactation may require suplmentary feeding. If you are feeding your livestock a small amount to get them to come when they are called, make it just that, a small amount, enough to get them interested and responsive when you enter the paddock.

To help reduce your feeding costs, in the case of the Lucerne pellets try feeding the raw material which is lucerne hay. Lucerne pellets are essentially chopped and cubed lucerne hay, if you were to feed the hay instead of the pellets you will be paying less for the same product as it costs time and money to process the Lucerne into pellets.

For your sheep you may be able to look at purchasing some feed oats. This sells for approximately $0.20-0.30/kg, much less than mixed grain. Oats has less nutritional value than other grains like barley and wheat but it also has less risk of causing grain poisoning. If you have sufficient pasture in the paddocks you could try feeding 200 grams of oats, per head per day. Additional mineral and vitamin supplements will not be required where your livestock have sufficient, green pasture.

Charlie

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