Supplementation needs of sheep and goats

Sep 28, 2021

What should sheep or goat producers look for when theyre selecting the right supplement? Jill Peine talks about the specific year-round supplementation needs of sheep and goats.


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Tom:   We’re here today with Jill Peine, nutritionist with CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements, to talk about the supplementation needs of sheep and goats.

            Welcome back, Jill.

Jill:      Hi, Tom. Thanks for having me.

Tom:   While there is a large variety of supplement options available out there in the marketplace, what should sheep or goat producers look for when they’re selecting the right supplement?

Jill:      Yeah. You know, whether you go to a box store, maybe your local dealer, or look online, there is a wide variety of supplements out there.

            Now, the first step to find the supplement (is to look for) one that has been formulated specifically for sheep or goats. Now, its an important point to make here that sheep, specifically, have a lower tolerance to copper; therefore, you know, there shouldn’t be any added copper to the supplements fed to sheep.

            Relatively speaking, the minerals goats require are similar to what cattle need — but also, keep in mind that the intake for cattle is going to be a lot greater, in most cases, compared to goats. Therefore, yeah, since goats eat so much less, they require much more — a much more concentrated mineral supplement than what is fed to cattle.

            And you also want to make sure that that the supplement offers consistent intake, supports reproduction and that its formulated for feeding throughout the year.

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Tom:   We often hear that goats and sheep will eat just about anything. Is that really true? Is that the case?

Jill:      The first priority when offering a supplement is to make sure that the sheep or goats are consuming it. If they aren’t, then really, what good is it?

            When it comes to small ruminants — and goats, in particular — you know, it’s common, it’s a common thought that they eat just about anything. However, thats not the case, and they can actually be quite picky in sorting off what they dont want to eat.

            Whether it is in a complete feed or mineral, molasses is often used to help improve the overall palatability of that feed. And that helps mask those undesirable flavors and, in turn, gives — gives that feed a sweeter taste.

            Now, CRYSTALYX supplements contain a great amount of molasses in the supplement, regardless of the species that youre feeding. And it’s the molasses that helps drive the consistent intake, which is a key component to look for when feeding a supplement — to let it do its job and be economical at the same time.

            It’s the unique batch manufacturing process of CRYSTALYX that allows not just the molasses to be cooked at high temperatures to remove that moisture, which dehydrates it in a similar way, you know, as if youre making peanut brittle, (but) cooking off that moisture is (also) an effective way to allow the block to harden once it cools. This process helps control how much sheep and goats can consume (by) having to lick the molasses-based product and, in turn, also taking those minerals, vitamins and proteins that have been mixed together.

            So, although controlled, the palatability — the molasses — actually attracts the animal to come back for more, and this helps keep the cost per head per day down while still hitting those consistent intakes.

Tom:   How do supplements play a role in overall profitability?

Jill:      Well, the main driver of profitability in our sheep and goat herds really revolves around reproduction and the number of lambs or kids weaned per female. If we provide these females with the, you know, correct amount of nutrients, that should have a direct effect on reproductive success within the herd.

            If there are mineral deficiencies, we may see does or ewes with delayed puberty, delayed estrus or heats, more cases of embryonic deaths, decreased conception rates, more cases of dystocia or lambing and kidding difficulties, weak lambs (or), once they are born, retained placentas — the list can go on and on there.

            For rams and bucks, mineral and vitamin supplementation is critical for fertility and breeding success, including zinc, selenium and vitamin E. In most cases, forages alone cannot supply the necessary amounts of minerals and vitamins, so supplementation to achieve the high performance on the male end is also important.

Tom:   Are there specific times of the year when providing a mineral or protein supplement is especially important?

Jill:      You know, in order to perform their best, to meet their genetic potential, both sheep and goats should be meeting their requirements year-round. And through different stages of production, the requirements will change, as well (as) throughout the year, from that maintenance time period to the higher demand in the lactation stage.

            When we think about maintenance, this occurs after the lambs or kids are weaned and before the female is rebred. Now, this length of time may differ based on different production scenarios — for example, in an accelerated program, you know, in which the ewe or doe may never be in maintenance, or on early weaning programs, where maintenance will last longer.

            Now, while nutrient requirements are the lowest at this stage, and protein and energy requirements may be met with pasture and forages alone, still, minerals and vitamins will be needed to be supplemented. And this stage is also the most ideal and the most efficient time to improve body condition as needed.

            Now, from maintenance, we move into breeding. And prior to breeding, many producers will increase that, that protein and the overall nutrients delivered to females in a process known as flushing. Now, this flushing will increase the ovulation rate and the number of ova available to be fertilized. And mineral nutrition is key in this stage.

In particular, the Blueprint nutrition program has been shown to have a direct impact on breeding success, with (fewer) open ewes and a greater lambing percentage when producers supplemented with the CRYSTALYX Blueprint® Sheep Mineral leading up to and through the breeding period.

            Then, we get into early gestation, or the first half of pregnancy, and research in the area of fetal development tells us that the maternal nutrition, starting even during this first trimester, will have both short- and long-term consequences on that developing lamb or kid.

            During this stage, the ewes and does should be on a nutrition program to maintain body condition and provide those minerals and vitamins to meet the needs of those developing lambs and kids.

            Moving, then, into — from early gestation to late gestation, or towards the end of pregnancy, the greatest amount of growth of the developing lamb or kid, you know, occurs during that last month or so of gestation. And this increases the overall nutritional demand of the dam to really reach her requirements during this stage. And its also important to keep in (mind) that the size of the female and the number of lambs or kids shes carrying will be a determinant of how much of those supplemental nutrients she will need, in addition to good-quality forages.

            And then, the final phase here is lactation. And this is the stage following lambing or kidding when, really, the dams nutritional requirements are their highest. The amount of nutrients the female needs will increase as the number of kids or lambs at (her) side increases. For example, a ewe with triplets will have a greater need for nutrients than what is needed for single-born lambs or kids.

            Its also during lactation where supplementing with CRYSTALYX will not only benefit the ewe or doe but also those lambs and kids, as they become more curious and attracted to that palatable supplement as well.

            So, there are key times when supplementation is important, and that really happens throughout the year; therefore, a year-round supplementation program is key.

Tom:   Well, we often think of CRYSTALYX as a cattle supplement. Can you tell me, Jill, more about what products are available specifically for sheep and goats?

Jill:      Sure, yeah. And CRYSTALYX is a well-known cattle supplement, but we do have supplement options for other species as well, like sheep and goats.

            For goats, there is the Goat-lyx® product. It’s the product of choice that’s formulated specifically for goats. This Goat-lyx will provide supplemental protein in there, along with minerals and vitamins, including a partial replacement of Bioplex® organic trace minerals and Bio-Mos® 2.

            Now, with feeding sheep, specific formulas with no added copper are available, and this includes Sheep-lyx™, which is similar to that Goat-lyx in (that) it contains protein, Bioplex trace minerals and Bio-Mos 2.

            But if protein supplementation is not necessary but youre looking for a controlled yet highly palatable mineral, look at the Blueprint® Sheep Mineral. This contains the Blueprint technology, which is 100% Bioplex organic trace minerals, and also has added Bio-Mos 2.

You know, all of these supplements have Alltech technology included in them, making them really premium supplement options for small ruminants.

Tom:   Where can producers go to learn more about CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements that are specifically available for sheep and goats?

Jill:      Yeah. I would encourage producers to go to our website, which is, to learn more about all of our supplements — and, specifically, (supplements) for sheep and goats.

            And we also have a new CRYSTALYX app that is available to download within the App Store for free, which has all the product information for sheep and goats right there on your smart device as well.

Tom:   That’s Jill Peine, nutritionist with CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements.

            Thank you, Jill.

Jill:      Thank you.