Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feeding hay on the ground

Most sheep raising books say never, ever feed your sheep on the ground. It’s a good way to infect them with worms or coccidia. I’ve been in barnyards (even mine after a good rain or in the late spring) that make ground feeding an obvious hazard. But I also know several good shepherds who fed their sheep onto snow as long as the snow was fresh and clean.

That’s the technique we use. When there’s clean snow, we spread hay onto the snow. It forces our sheep to exercise, important for the health of the mom and the fetus, and it distributes their manure throughout the pastures rather than just around the feeders. Come spring we can tell exactly where we fed hay onto the ground - the grass there is greener and grows faster because of the manure.

This year has been a barren, snowless time for feeding. Both Dave and the sheep were unhappy using the feeders. Dave didn’t appreciate how fast they filled with stems the sheep didn’t want to eat and which he then had to clean out of the feeders. The sheep didn’t like the way the tasty leaves sifted through the stems to the bottom of the feeder. They complained all the time. When the snow finally came, we all rejoiced. Once again we can feed hay on the ground. Of course this year, within a week the snow is almost gone. But while it lasted...

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