Being a Guardian for Your Sheep
November 25, 2019
- Being a Guardian for Your Sheep
By Will Winter
There are many important aspects to successful sheep rearing. They boil down into three major categories: Genetics, Management, and Nutrition. Here are some of the more important aspects regarding the best possible nutrition for sheep.
The standard maxim that can be used for the selection of the best feeds for grazing animals goes like this: Cattle need 20% browse (woody shrubs and forbs, shoulder-height or taller) and 80% polyculture pasture grasses and legumes. Goats are the opposite, we like to see them get about 80% of their diet from browse, and the remaining 20% from soft grasses. If left to their own choosing that's what they will usually select. Sheep are right in the middle, so we try our best to provide them with a 50-50 mixture of browse and grass-grazing. You can get away with periods of time when it's permissible to vary these ratios, but if that continues too long, there will be a cost to health and well-being. Many businesses that sell seed now provide seed cocktails of warm-season and cool-season grasses, legumes, brassicas, and forbs for proper nourishment of sheep, and they are highly recommended. No matter which type of pasture mix is used, it's critical to add controlled moves of livestock using portable fencing. It's equally important to avoid over-grazing of any pasture at any time. are particularly sensitive to moldy or poorly-preserved hay, baleage or silage, so care must be taken. Ideally, toxin-binders should always be available.
What follows is perhaps the hardest to grasp part of successful sheep-rearing and that is the ability to provide a year-round source of all the necessary micro-nutrients. Always remember that all the wild ruminants were free to roam and migrate, giving them vastly superior forages, as well as access to mineral licks and salt licks. Wild herds and flocks also have far lower production demands. For all living things, if only one essential vitamin or mineral is missing, the death and sickness rates will begin to climb. Subsequent generations from animals that are malnourished get weaker, dumber, and less profitable!
When adequate levels of good genetics and good management are present, it's still possible to go broke raising livestock if the nutrition isn't up to par (and why settle for just par?). All of the losses from parasites and diseases have little to do with predators or some other force outside your control and can be completely averted. The only thing required is to be a wise livestock nutritionist. This is equally true as a means through which we can learn to stem the loss from reproductive failures, lambing difficulties and lamb strength at birth through weaning.
Minerals & Vitamins for All Sheep
Of the 16 or so minerals that are essential for life, the focus is upon these trace minerals, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine and Copper. What, Copper you say? Most people think that sheep can't have copper, which is untrue. Like all other mammals, sheep cannot live without it. To make that work, however, it's essential to say that it must be the right kinds of copper, the right amount and in the right proportion to other companion minerals. As it turns out, simultaneously maintaining the correct levels of molybdenum and sulfur in the mineral mix keep it safe. Copper is used for wool production, red blood cells, skin pigment, hoof tissue, stress resistance, development of antibodies, resistance to parasites and much more. Whenever cattle and sheep or goats and sheep are grazing together, the level of copper in a proper "sheep mineral" mix is totally adequate for the other ruminants. On the other hand, if the cattle-goat mineral mix is used, it could be dangerous for the sheep.
Likewise, there are at least 13 essential vitamins; A, C, D, E, K and 8 B vitamins. It's critical to include protective levels of the fat-soluble vitamins especially, the ones most likely to be missing, A, D3 and E. This is even more important in the winter months when plant levels are low or non-existent.
Here's What We Consider to be the Ideal Offering for Pastured (100% Grassfed) Sheep
SHEEP GUARDIAN: The delicious all-in-one sheep mineral mix that has the highest levels of minerals, the correct ratios, and the highest quality ingredients. There are no fillers, no artificial ingredients and virtually no salt (salt should always be offered separately). It contains 20% kelp, which improves the flavor and provides ingredients that just can't be found elsewhere. Sheep like kelp. Reduced price! Now only $42/bag.
DESERT DYNAMIN DETOX CLAY: The reasons for adding free-choice detox clay would fill a book but suffice it to say that it covers three main essential areas, detoxifies heavy metals, pollution, pesticides, herbicides, and mold mycotoxins; provides additional minerals and aids digestion which includes helping to remove or prevent parasites.
KANSAS CITY ROCK SALT: This ancient seabed earth salt is delicious, pure, and inexpensive. Always provide it year-round.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (ACV): From Golden Valley (the only commercial ACV that is made from whole apples and sold raw and alive). While ACV is not essential for life, it comes in handy for helping overall health, vitality, and production. We see fewer parasite problems, better reproductive performance, and fertility, increased milk flow for lambs or production, fewer disease problems (increased immunity) and, as if that weren't enough, the increased digestive strength from the enzymes and probiotics help the rumen break down cellulose and hemicellulose (wood) into simple and highly digestible sugars. This increased digestive efficiency more than pays for the pennies a day cost of administration of vinegar.
- 1.In situations where we need to provide even more energy than forages or the ACV provide, there are two great options to add pure energy. One is just plain CANE MOLASSES. It mixes very well with ACV and can be used in various rations. When mixed at a ratio of three parts ACV and one-part molasses, it provides flavor encouragement for consumption as well as the caloric/digestive benefit. Another amazing addition is LASSAHOL. This product is made from fermented cane molasses using a patented process resulting in an alcohol-based solution that is incredibly strong. Sheep need about 1/4 oz. per day to achieve extremely high potential. Lassahol mixes very well with ACV and it makes it even easier to measure out this tiny dose
2.One good means of providing a "natural" parasite deterrent, is to offer a 50-50 mixture of KELP and Food Grade DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE). Do this at least twice a year for about a week. During this time, remove the other sources of minerals and make it easily available. As a variation of this plan, some sheep producers offer the DE on a year-round, free-choice basis, or perhaps mixed with the minerals