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Plan Ahead To Meet Sheep and Goat Dietary Needs in the Dormant Season

The dormant season is meant to be a time of rest and rejuvenation for your land. It also can be a time that your livestock, especially sheep and goats, need extra care when it comes to nutrition  (originally published in Noble Rancher).

With the proper preparation, you can rest assured your small ruminants will be in good nutritional shape through the dormant season. Kevin Lynch offers advice from his years of experience with sheep and goats both as a rancher and as a current Noble research associate.


When considering small-ruminant nutritional needs through the dormant months, start with the basics: energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, fiber, and water.

A rule of thumb is to allow for about 2-3% of the animal’s body weight in dry matter per day, Lynch says, although that varies by breed, production goals, their proximity to feed and water, and where they are in the production cycle. Planning for winter grazing in your adaptive grazing management may account for a large part of your basic nutrition, but many ranchers will still need to provide some forms of supplement.

A native grass or prairie hay can offer moderate energy and protein for sheep and goats, and it may be the most readily available and economic option for many ranchers. A legume hay such as alfalfa can provide additional energy and protein for both sheep and goats, but must be fed with caution to avoid bloat or mastitis issues.

Your small ruminant’s need for additional energy or protein supplements will depend on the severity of the weather where you ranch and their reproductive needs. Corn, oats, barley and other grains can offer a high-energy supplement, as needed, as can pelleted feeds. Remember that goats may require more supplemented energy or forage availability than sheep in the dormant season, due to a lack of brush with green leaves to browse.



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