An important part of any livestock farmer’s operation is the feed. Keeping animals fed and healthy is not cheap, but it’s essential. Finding a cost-effective way to feed your animals while still producing quality products is key.
Sheep can definitely eat haylage, feeding them haylage can be an excellent option for farmers who want to keep their costs down and still meet their livestock’s nutritional needs.
What is Haylage?
Haylage is a type of stored forage feed made by fermenting hay. This process is done by heating the hay to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit over a month-long process, then mixing it with water and allowing it to sit.
This causes the hay to ferment and creates a condensed, higher-nutrient feed that is easier to digest. Haylage is often used as a feed for horses and cattle, but it can also be fed to smaller livestock like sheep. Haylage is a great alternative to hay for animals that are less hungry or have digestive issues, since it is more condensed and packed with nutrients.
Is Haylage Good for Sheep?
Yes, haylage is definitely good for sheep. Sheep are ruminants and have four-compartment stomachs, which are similar to humans in that they break down their food in a special order.
When sheep eat hay, the hay is fermented in the rumen, which is the second compartment in the stomach. The fermentation process allows the sheep to break down the hay product more easily than if they ate it when it was fresh.
When feeding sheep haylage, the feed is already fermented, so the sheep don’t need to work as hard as they would if they were eating a freshly cut hay product. Haylage is packed with nutrients, which are essential for sheep if they are going to stay healthy and produce wool and meat.
Haylage Nutrition for Sheep
Haylage is packed with essential nutrients that sheep need to stay healthy and produce top-quality wool and meat.
Some of the essential nutrients in haylage include protein, fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and energy. The amount of each nutrient in haylage will depend on the type of hay used and the amount of water added to the feed.
The B vitamins are important for healthy blood and energy production, while minerals are needed for healthy bones and teeth. Protein is essential for all body functions, including growing hair and nails, building muscle and healing wounds.
Fiber is a part of every cell of the body and helps the digestive system function properly. All of these nutrients are essential to keep sheep healthy and produce top-quality wool and meat.
How to Feed Haylage to Sheep
How you feed haylage to sheep will depend on the amount of feed that you give your sheep. If you are feeding sheep haylage, you’ll have to feed them less feed than if you were feeding them hay.
This is because haylage is more condensed and contains more nutrients than hay, so you don’t need as much feed to meet the same nutritional requirements. You may even be able to cut back on the amount of feed that your sheep eat if you feed them haylage, since the feed is more condensed and easier for the sheep to digest.
If you feed your sheep haylage, you’ll need to make sure that you’re feeding them a proper amount of feed. Feeding sheep too much haylage can cause health issues, while not feeding them enough can cause malnutrition.
To figure out the amount of feed to feed your sheep, you can use feed conversion charts, which tell you how many pounds of feed are needed to produce a certain amount of meat or wool.
What Should Sheep Eat?
It is important for ewes to be fed a diet that is high in protein throughout the entire year. Protein is required for fetal growth, feed conversion and wool production. The protein requirement will be the highest in ewes during the fall and winter months just before lambing. Ideal protein levels are between 20-25%. Feeding ewes a diet high in crude fiber may not give enough energy to sustain good reproductive performance.
The staple food required in a healthy diet for sheep are:
Grass: Grass is the main food source for sheep. However grass can be very different in quality, depending on the season, weather and location. Good pasture will contain 15% protein and 3% crude fiber.
Corn: Sheep are able to eat corn as a forage crop just as cattle do. The use of corn silage will provide up to 17% protein, however it is not recommended to be used by itself or in high concentrations due to potential problems with mold growth and feed palatability issues. When fed in total mixed rations it provides an excellent source of energy and a more consistent supply of feed during times when pasture quality may decline such as winter or when there’s a shortage of grass due to dry conditions during summer months.
Legumes: Legumes are a relative of peas and beans that are high in protein, low in fiber and can be used as an excellent source of protein. Some of the most popular legume crops grown for sheep include alfalfa and red clover. In fact, alfalfa is one of the highest quality feeds available and provides 20-25% protein, 2% crude fiber; red clover ranges from 16-18% protein and 2% crude fiber. When feeding legumes it is important to note that they are high in protein and should be fed as a protein source and not a total mixed ration. Sheep should also have access to grass and/or other forage crops so they do not rely on the legume alone for nutrients.
Fruits: Fruits are great for supplementing sheep diets due to the vitamins and minerals they provide. However, most fruits are very high in sugar and because sheep have a short duration of rumination they can quickly dehydrate if not offered water frequently. Some of the most popular fruits that can be fed to sheep include apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears and plums.
Vegetables: Vegetables can also be fed to sheep if they are not over-supplemented and/or fed in excess. Most vegetables are high in moisture and therefore can cause digestive issues, as well as cause scouring and diarrhea. Vegetables that are higher in protein include alfalfa, clover (leafy), corn, cucumber, kale, melon, mustard greens (leafy), radishes, pumpkin and squash.
Haylage is a condensed form of hay that has been fermented. It is a great feed for sheep since it is more condensed than hay, making it easier for sheep to digest.
Haylage is packed with nutrients that are essential for sheep to stay healthy and produce wool and meat, making it a great feed for sheep. If you are feeding sheep haylage, be sure to feed them less than if you were feeding them hay as feeding them too much or too little haylage can cause health issues.