This page was last updated on: February 15, 2008
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CALCULATE HOW MUCH HAY WILL BE NEEDED
by Mike Neary
Extension Sheep Specialist
To do this, one needs to know the average weight of the ewes in the flock and the length of time they will need to be fed hay. Let’s assume that we have ewes that weigh 175 pounds, they will be fed hay for six months, they are bred when they come into a hay feeding situation, they will be in a late gestation phase for 40 days and they will be lactating for 60 days. This leaves 80 days for early pregnancy and the maintenance period after weaning until pasturing. For simplicity sake we have used the whole 80 days as early gestation, this may not be the case in individual situations. The following is an example on how to calculate the hay needs for an individual ewe, specific calculations can be made for your situation.
by: Steven H. Umberger,
Extension Animal Scientist
Average or poor quality hay should be fed during gestation, leaving the higher quality hay to be fed during lactation. Because protein requirements of the ewe increase dramatically after lambing, less protein supplementation from concentrate feeds is required when higher quality hay is used. Second-cutting, mixed grass-clover hay may be more economical to feed to the ewe flock than alfalfa hay. This is especially true if alfalfa hay must be purchased from off the farm. Alfalfa hay is an excellent feed for sheep and is best used during lactation when ewes require more protein to promote higher levels of milk production. Many producers have fed alfalfa hay to gestating ewes with good results. However, some producers feeding alfalfa hay to gestating ewes have experienced problems with vaginal prolapses, late term abortions, and milk fever. If alfalfa hay is being fed during late gestation, it should be limit fed and be free of must and mold. Because of its high quality and palatability, ewes consume more alfalfa hay than is needed. The bulkiness of the hay in the rumen may place pressure on the reproductive tract, resulting in a vaginal prolapse before lambing. Ewes receiving alfalfa hay during gestation are more prone to milk fever than ewes fed grass hay. Because alfalfa is high in calcium, ewes are able to meet their calcium requirements without mobilizing body stores of calcium. However, after lambing, ewes not accustomed to mobilizing bone calcium may experience milk fever because of their inability to meet the additional calcium requirements associated with lactation. Regardless of the type of hay fed, producers should submit hay samples to a forage testing lab to determine its nutrient content. By knowing the nutrient content of the hay, diets can be more accurately and economically formulated for the sheep flock.
In general, there is less waste and more flexibility when feeding hay harvested as square bales. However, round bales can provide quality feed for sheep when stored and fed properly. To minimize dry matter and nutrient losses, which can approach 40 to 50 percent, round bales should be covered with plastic for outside storage or placed under shelter. Bales should be stored on pallets or tires to prevent ground contact. Feeding round bales without a feeder may result in as much as 30 percent of the hay being wasted, and poses a hazard to the sheep should the bales roll over. A variety of round bale feeders are commercially available. Feeders designed in the shape of a cradle hold the bales up off the ground, are maintenance free, and appear to work best for minimizing waste.
Total pounds of hay needed per ewe =770