Feeding small ruminants

tips for a healthy diet for sheep and goats
Feeding small ruminants Tips for a healthy diet for sheep and goats The number of sheep and goats kept for commercial purposes has decreased steadily in recent decades. On the other hand, these small ruminants are becoming increasingly popular amongst hobby animal keepers. Even when keeping sheep or goats as a hobby, is important to feed the animals appropriate to their needs, because improper feeding can lead to digestive and metabolic disorders.

Small ruminants are economical feed converters with digestive systems designed for feed that is high crude fibre. In the foregut system, plant fibres are digested by microbes into fatty acids. These then serve as a source of energy for the animals. Sheep and goats eat much more selectively, compared to cattle. They therefore experience fewer cases of poisoning through toxic plants or ingestion of foreign bodies.

Hobby animals in particular are often feed excess calories and protein. Therefore, sufficient roughage should always be present in the form of high-quality hay. The hay ration can be enhanced or supplemented with AGROBS hay substitute products such as AlpenHeu, Sensitiv Plus or with high quality feed straw such as Stroh.

Roughage should be provided year round, even during the grazing season. A feed that’s low in protein and high in crude fibre, such as Sensitiv Plus, is recommended in the spring when grass is still very rich in energy and protein. Take care to avoid abrupt changes to the animals’ feed. This is not only a significant stress factor; it can also lead to digestive problems, as the rumen must first adapt to the change in feed.

Additional feed can be offered in addition to hay, feed straw and pasture, depending on the animals’ requirements and use. This should be adapted to the respective needs of the animals. In order to be able to assess the physical condition of the animals better, it is advisable to examine them regularly by gripping the lower spine, especially in the case of woolly sheep. This way you can determine the layer of fat over the transverse and spinous processes in the lower back.

You can enhance the base feed of goats and sheep with Sensitiv Plus or use it as feed supplement. Sensitiv Plus is a healthy alternative to conventional feed, especially for animals with kidney problems or urolithiasis due to its extremely low protein content. Sensitiv Plus is generally suitable for all small ruminants as it is particularly rich in crude fibre and promotes chewing and salivation. Maiscobs are suitable as concentrated feed for sheep and goats with higher energy requirements. Maiscobs are made from the whole corn plant, have a high crude fibre and energy content. Pregnant and lactating animals need higher levels of protein. These requirements can be covered by adequate pasture grass, Luzernecobs or Luzerne+.

It is also important that the animals be supplied year round with minerals and trace elements through a mineral feed, and salt licks such as AGROBS Bavaria Steinsalz. With mineral feed supplements one should make sure that they are produced specially for sheep or goats. Sheep in particular are sensitive to high copper levels in their feed, as excess copper is stored in the liver. However, acute copper poisoning in sheep is rather rare. Chronic poisoning, however, which is characterised by liver damage to the point of destruction of the liver cells and the dissolution of red blood cells by the copper released, is more common. But a copper deficiency can also lead to symptoms, especially in lambs. With lambs, a copper deficiency may express itself in difficulty in suckling or lameness leading to the inability to stand.

Appropriate feed should be accompanied by free access to water in drinking water quality. In winter, you should also make sure that the water does not freeze.

Bergsiegel Hagebuttenfrüchte are a healthy alternative to conventional treats. They are packed with vitamins to support the body’s own defences.

The immune systems of small ruminants can also be given a boost from Bergsiegel Schwarzkümmelsamen. Bergsiegel Kräuter can help combat circulatory weaknesses, colds, or to promote general good health, especially in older animals!

Bergsiegel Bockshornkleesamen have a variety of benefits. They can boost the immune system, bring relief to respiratory ailments, stimulate the appetite and support the flow of milk in lactating animals.

You can also keep worms in check naturally with Bergsiegel Wurm-Schreck-Kräuter. This herbal mix is designed to provide natural substances that help prevent worm attacks. 
Dr. med. vet. Katharina Boes
July 2015  ©AGROBS GmbH
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(* The references refer to the technical content of the text and not to the product recommendations.)