Getting on Feed and Staying on Feed

In quarter one of this magazine, we addressed some nutritional diseases frequently found in sheep and goats. This quarter, it only makes sense to talk about the point of production where these issues are most frequently seen. Getting lambs and kids from birth to finish can be a challenge, especially if there are circumstances out of our control (let’s be real, this is farming, most of it is out of our control), such as the weather or the commodities market. When it comes to feeding lambs and kids, we CAN control quite a few things.

Don’t make feed changes quickly. Ideally, we would give the rumen 14 days to adjust to significant changes. Yet, it’s more common to see changes made over a 7–10-day period.

Make sure plenty of feed space and water is available for the number of animals in a pen. You can never have too much feed space or water available. Whether it’s being fed as hay or bedding, ensure adequate quantities of long-stem fiber. As we reach the finishing stages, grass, hay, and corn stalks are our region’s most common sources of fiber/bedding. In most feedlot situations, subclinical acidosis is more prevalent than we realize. These animals are not showing “symptoms” as the issue is in the rumen. Acidosis is generally a sign of an issue in the diet but can also be caused by various stressors, including weather, lack of long-stem fiber, running out of feed, diet being too hot, etc.

Livestock, especially livestock that thrive in the northern plains, are not designed to thrive in the heat. There’s a reason we don’t see many Brahman cattle up here. All the extra methods they use to handle heat do not work during our lovely winters. New technologies for use in the feed help mitigate heat stress and flies, both of which can slow animals down in the summer. If you are spending all your energy trying to cool off, going to eat a high-energy ration will not be a high priority.

It is rare to find a goat or sheep feed that does not include Deccox (sheep/goats), Bovatec (sheep), or Rumensin (goats), but make sure you are feeding the appropriate one to your animals in the feedlot to help with feed efficiency and coccidiosis. Be careful when using Corid (amprolium); while it is the only thing that can “cure” coccidiosis, it can also cause thiamine deficiencies in the animals. Coccidiosis is an opportunistic organism; it comes in after something else has worn down the animal’s immune system. Stressors can include weaning, shipping, wide temperature swings, other health challenges, parasite infection, improper diet, and a variety of other issues.

Remember to deworm the finishing animals that are being kept on feed. The less energy the immune system needs to help fight off parasites, the more energy they have for growth. If animals slow down on growth and are in the feedlot longer than expected, giving a 3rd CD&T shot might be beneficial. If you have any poor gainers, sort those off so they don’t have to compete with the big, greedy fast growers.

While most of the suggestions above sound like common sense, sometimes we get busy and let the small, simple things go. But those small, simple things can add up to significant losses. If we want our lambs and kids to grow quickly, let’s give them an environment that allows them to do that.