close this bookBetter Farming Series 12 - Sheep and Goat Breeding (FAO - INADES, 1977, 51 p.)
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View the documentThe digestive system
Open this folder and view contentsFeeding sheep and goats
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBalanced rations for animals
View the documentFood Requirements of Sheep and Goats
View the documentSheep and goats need water

Better Farming Series 12 - Sheep and Goat Breeding (FAO - INADES, 1977, 51 p.)

How to feed sheep and goats

The digestive system

In order to understand how sheep and goats use grass we shall study their digestive system.


Digestive system of a sheep

The mouth

Open the mouth of a sheep or goat. You see two jaws and a tongue.

Toward the back of the mouth you can see large teeth with which the animal chews grass. These are called molars.

The upper jaw has no front teeth. The lower jaw has 8 front teeth. The older the animal is, the more these teeth are worn.

You can tell the age of a sheep or goat by looking at its front teeth.

The first stomach

Let us watch a sheep or a goat feeding.

To feed, a sheep or a goat grips the grass between the upper jaw and the teeth of the lower jaw. It jerks its head to pull off the grass. It does not chew the grass, but swallows it at once. The grass goes into the first stomach (or rumen)


Sheep’s stomach

Sheep and goats ruminate.

When sheep and goats have filled the first stomach, they often lie down.

But they go on moving their jaws. They are ruminating.

The sheep and the goat bring up a little grass from the first stomach into the mouth.

They chew the grass for a long time with their molars.

When the grass is well chewed, they swallow it again; but this time the grass does not go into the first stomach, but into the other parts of the stomach.


A ruminating sheep: the grass comes back to the mouth


A ruminating sheep: the grass goes back to the stomach to be digested

Sheep and goats can ruminate well when they are quiet and Iying down.

Animals that ruminate are called ruminants.

Goats, sheep, cows, deer and camels are ruminants.

Feeding sheep and goats

They must be given enough food.

If an animal does not get enough food, it does not put on weight.

In the dry season there is often not enough food and animals lose weight.

They must be given rich food.

Ruminants eat grass.

In grass they get what is needed to build their bodies.
But they can be given as well certain very rich foods which are called feed supplements.

A sheep or a goat raised for meat should grow quickly. Then it can be sold faster and you earn money faster.

A ewe or a she- goat that is having young ones needs good food (see pregnancy requirements in Booklet No. 8, page 21).

Then she can feed well the young in her womb which will later drink her milk.

If the mothers have plenty of milk, the young ones grow better and faster.

In order to give animals enough food all the year round, the flock is moved from place to place. When there is no more water and grass in one region, the flock is taken to another region where there is still water and grass.

In the dry season sheep and goats can feed more easily than cattle. They make better use of the grass, because the sheep cut the grass closer to the ground, and the goats pull up the grass.

You can feed sheep on pasture where cattle have already fed, because sheep eat short grass. But they leave nothing behind them.

You must not let these animals feed in very wet places, because they catch diseases of the feet and body.

A good shepherd knows how to move the animals; he has a good dog to help him.

Then the flock is well fed, it does not catch diseases; the little ones grow up and do not often die.

During the rainy season it is easy to feed animals well. Grass grows quickly, there is a lot of it, it is young and nourishing.

During the dry season, animals are badly fed. The grass is hard and scarce, the stems are tall, the leaves are dry. The animals won't eat this grass. They are short of food, they get thin and sometimes die.

During the dry season it is necessary to give the animals a feed supplement.

Balanced rations for animals

Rations for lambs of 5 months and over, and for breeding males.

In the rainy season an animal eats about 2.5 kilogrammes of grass a day.

In the dry season, give:

First ration: 1 kg of hay and 500 grammes of silage. (See Booklet No. 8, page 28).

Second ration: 1 kg of hay and 100 grammes of cooked cassava.

Third ration: 1 kg of silage and 200 grammes of rice bran.

Fourth ration: 1 kg of hay and 100 grammes of rice bran.

Fifth ration: 1.5 kg of silage and 150 grammes of cooked cassava.

If you want to fatten an animal for sale or for eating, add 350 grammes of oil cake cottonseed, copra or oil palm kernel.

Oil cake is costly, but it makes animals put on weight and fatten quickly.
Do not give the same rations to females and their young ones: their needs are different. Instead, give the following rations.

In the rainy season:

Pregnant ewe or she- goat weighing 30 kg:

2 kg of grass

100 g of rice bran
300 g of oil cake

Ewe or she- goat suckling young of 0 to 4 weeks:

2 kg of grass

400 g of cooked cassava
400 g of rice bran
600 g of oil cake

Ewe or she- goat suckling young of 5 to 10 weeks:

2 kg of grass
200 g of cooked cassava
400 g of rice bran
600 g of oil cake

Ewe or she- goat suckling two young ones of 0 to 4 weeks:

2 kg of grass
900 g of cooked cassava
500 g of rice bran
600 g of oil cake

Ewe or she goat suckling two young ones of 5 to 10 weeks:

2 kg of grass
700 g of cooked cassava
500 g of rice bran
600 g of oil cake

Supplementary note

Food Requirements of Sheep and Goats

Animal

Feed units

Digestible protein (Grammes)

Maintenance requirement

Sheep, goats




adults of 20 kg

0.3

10 g


adults of 30 kg

0.3

15 g

Maintenance and production requirements

Pregnant ewe end she- goats




of 20 kg

0 6

80 g


of 30 kg

0.6

90 g

Ewe of 30 kg suckling




1 lamb of 4 weeks

1.6

160 g


1 lamb of 10 weeks

1.4

160 g


2 lamb of 4 weeks

2 3

160 g


2 lambs of 10 weeks

2.1

160 g

She-goat having 1 litre of milk

0 7

75 g

She-goat having 2 litre of milk

0.9

140 g

Maintenance, growth and fattening requirements

Lamb of 2 months

0.6

60 g

Lamb of 3 months

0.9

80 g

After weaning, beginning of fattening

1.0

40 g

After weaning, cad of fattening

1 2

50 g

Giving a feed supplement and mineral salts

When food is short, when the grass is hard, animals must be given a feed supplement.

When animals are reproducing, when the females are pregnant, when they are giving milk, they must be given a feed supplement.

You can, for instance, buy meal for sheep and goats. It is sold commercially, but it is dear.

You must also give mineral salts, such as a licking stone. One kilogramme contains: 400 g of salt 150 g of calcium, 80 g of phosphorus as well as other mineral salts. Or you can give native soda. Put the salt in the water, in hay and silage.

Mineral salts are needed to form the animals' bones.

Sheep and goats need water

Sheep and goats get thin during the dry season because they are not well fed, but also because they do not drink enough. A sheep can drink 5 to 6 litres of water a day.

If ruminants do not drink enough, they cannot digest grass.

Animals can drink:

· in their shelter: from a hollowed- out tree trunk, from a barrel cut in half, from a concrete trough. Their drinking places must be always very clean.

· at streams or rivers: Make sure that the water is clean and clear;. there must be no mud in it.

Sheep and goats easily catch diseases from water.

It is important:

· to give the flock every day enough water;
· to give water that is as clean as possible;
· to give this water in a clean place;
· not to let the sheep and goats go into the water. They can catch diseases from it.

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