3 min read
Goats and sheep outdoor on a farm

The right nutrition provided at the right stage is essential to the profitable production of sheep and goats. It is needed to produce a high-percentage crop, to wean heavy animals, and to develop satisfactory flock replacements. The ideal program also is efficient and economical, and minimizes nutrition-related problems.

To succeed, producers should know basic animal nutrition, be familiar with common nutrition terms, and understand nutritional requirements at different stages of life. This begins with knowing the essential nutrients these small ruminants need—energy (fat and carbohydrates), protein, vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber—and their roles in growth, production, and reproduction

Essential Nutrients and Their Roles

Energy

The best sources of energy for small ruminants are the most plentiful feeds available. These are usually pastures and browses, hay, and grains. Sheep and goats often lack nutrients, however, due to poor-quality pastures and roughage or inadequate amounts of feed. Because of this, energy is the most common limiting factor in small ruminant nutrition. Deficiency will result in decreased production, reproductive failure, increased mortality, and increased susceptibility to diseases and parasites.

It is essential to evaluate the efficiency and overall performance of a feed or ration—referred to as the total digestible nutrients (TDN). TDN is a broad term used to express the energy value of a feed or ration. The percentage of TDN is the most widely used method of evaluating feed for energy. As a rule, the greater the TDN is in a ration, the greater the rate of gain will be in the animal.

Protein

Protein is used to repair old tissues and to build new tissues. In small ruminants, the quantity of protein is more important than the quality. Protein deficiency is particularly detrimental to the young animal, so an adequate amount must be supplied if rapid growth and high production are to be obtained. On the other hand, excessive feeding is expensive. When protein supplementation is the primary objective, the cost per pound of protein is the most important consideration.

Minerals

In comparison to energy and protein, minerals are necessary in smaller quantities (macro and micro). Essential macrominerals (required at 0.1% or more in diet) for sheep and goats are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulfur, and magnesium. Essential microminerals (required in parts per million) include manganese, iron, copper, cobalt, zinc, iodine, selenium, and molybdenum. The primary sources of these minerals are: diet, mineral supplements (loose and block), and, in some areas, the water supply.

Calcium is a necessary constituent of the bones and teeth and is essential for regular heart action and muscular activity. A calcium deficiency results in poor growth and bone development in growing animals.

Phosphorus is an essential part of blood and of all cells in the body. It is involved in chemical reactions that release energy in the body. Bones and teeth contain relatively large amounts of phosphorus as well as calcium. Both calcium and phosphorus must be present in the ration in the proper proportions.

Required microminerals (minerals needed in smaller quantities) include iodine, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, cobalt, selenium, and fluoride. These are found in the diet, mineral supplements, and, in some areas, the water supply. Soil quality and pH can be a factor in the availability of macro- and microminerals absorbed by vegetation.

Vitamins

Vitamins are compounds necessary for normal growth, health, and reproduction. Small ruminants require many vitamins, but their dietary requirements in this area are relatively simple. This is due to the nature of the feeds they ordinarily consume and the synthesis of vitamins in the rumen.

Water

Water functions in the animal body in a number of ways:

  • helps to digest food
  • regulates body temperature
  • lubricates tissue
  • transports waste from the body

Fiber

Adequate fiber and/or quality forage promotes good health and better performance. Fiber adds bulk to the diet and keeps the rumen properly functioning, as it increases rumination and salivation. The rumen of sheep and goats functions best when the daily diet includes a high concentration of slowly degradable fiber ingredients known as roughage. Extended chewing of the fibrous material helps to keep the acidity in the rumen within a range that benefits the fiber-digesting microbes. This is commonly known as the cud-chewing process.

The digestive interaction of fiber stimulates the muscles in the wall of the rumen to contract and expand, which essentially stirs up the material in the rumen. These forage products include any type of hay, silage, or fresh forage. Cottonseed and soybean hulls often are utilized as a form of fiber in feed rations.

Implementing a Nutritional Program

To meet the nutritional requirements of each animal at its particular stage of life, producers must combine feed ingredients into the least costly but most efficient ration. The following tables provide estimates of the daily nutrient needs of sheep and goats.

 

Table 1. Daily Nutrient Requirements of Sheep (Per Animal) - Lambs

Source: National Research Council, 2007.

aTo convert dry matter to an as-fed basis, divide dry matter values by the percentage of dry matter in the particular feed.
bOne pound TDN (total digestible nutrients) = 0.91 Mcal DE (digestible energy)
cThese are the maximum weight gains expected.
dThese lambs are intended for breeding, so maximum weight gains and finish are of secondary importance.
eValues are applicable for ewes in moderate condition. Fat ewes should be fed according to the next lower weight category, and thin ewes at the next higher weight category. Once the desired or moderate weight condition is attained, use that weight category through all production stages.
Body Weight (lb.)Avg. Daily Gain (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNbCalcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.) Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Early-weaned Lambs, Moderate Growth Potential c
220.441.15.00.380.90.0080.00447010
440.552.25.00.371.80.0120.00594020
660.662.94.30.422.20.0150.007141020
880.763.33.80.442.60.0170.008188022
1100.663.33.00.402.60.0150.008235022
Early-weaned Lambs, Rapid Growth Potentialc
220.551.36.00.351.10.0110.00547012
440.662.66.00.452.00.0140.00694024
660.723.14.70.482.40.0160.007141021
880.883.33.80.512.50.0190.009188022
1100.943.73.40.532.80.0210.015235025
1320.773.72.80.532.80.0180.010282025
Lambs Finishing, Age 4–7 Monthsc
660.652.94.30.422.10.0140.007141020
880.603.54.00.412.70.0140.007188024
1100.453.53.20.352.70.0120.007235024
Replacement Ewe Lambsd
660.502.64.00.411.70.0140.006141018
880.403.13.50.392.00.0130.006188021
1100.263.33.00.301.90.0110.005235022
1320.223.32.50.301.90.0100.005282022
1540.223.32.10.291.90.0100.006329022
Replacement Ram Lambsd
880.734.04.50.542.50.0170.008188024
1320.705.34.00.583.40.0180.009282026
1760.646.23.50.593.90.0190.010376028
2200.556.63.00.584.20.0180.010470030

 

Table 1. Daily Nutrient Requirements of Sheep (Per Animal) - Ewes

Source: National Research Council, 2007.

aTo convert dry matter to an as-fed basis, divide dry matter values by the percentage of dry matter in the particular feed.
bOne pound TDN (total digestible nutrients) = 0.91 Mcal DE (digestible energy)
cThese are the maximum weight gains expected.
dThese lambs are intended for breeding, so maximum weight gains and finish are of secondary importance.
eValues are applicable for ewes in moderate condition. Fat ewes should be fed according to the next lower weight category, and thin ewes at the next higher weight category. Once the desired or moderate weight condition is attained, use that weight category through all production stages.
Body Weight (lb.)Avg. Daily Gain (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNbCalcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.) Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Maintenance
1100.022.22.00.211.20.0040.004235015
1320.022.41.80.231.30.0050.005282016
1540.022.61.70.251.50.0050.005329018
1760.022.91.60.271.60.0060.006376020
1980.023.11.50.291.70.0060.006423021
Flushing: 2 Weeks Prebreeding and First 3 Weeks of Breeding
1100.223.53.20.332.10.0120.006235024
1320.223.72.80.342.20.0120.006282026
1540.224.02.60.362.30.0120.007329027
1760.224.22.40.382.50.0130.007376028
1980.224.42.20.392.60.0130.008423030
Nonlactating, First 15 Weeks of Gestation
1100.072.62.40.251.50.0060.005235018
1320.072.92.20.271.60.0070.005282020
1540.073.12.00.291.70.0080.006329021
1760.073.31.90.311.80.0080.007376022
1980.073.51.80.331.90.0090.008423024
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (130% - 150% Lambing Rate Expected)
1100.403.53.20.382.10.0130.010425024
1320.403.72.80.402.20.0130.011510026
1540.404.02.60.422.30.0140.012596027
1760.404.22.40.442.40.0140.013680028
1980.404.42.20.472.50.0140.014765030
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (180% – 225% Lambing Rate Expected)
1100.503.73.40.432.40.0140.007425026
1320.504.03.00.452.60.0150.008510027
1540.504.22.70.472.80.0170.010595028
1760.504.42.50.492.90.0180.013680030
1980.504.62.30.513.00.0200.014765032
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Singles
110-0.064.64.20.673.00.0200.013425032
132-0.065.13.90.703.30.0200.014510034
154-0.065.53.60.733.60.0200.015595038
176-0.065.73.20.763.70.0210.016680039
198-0.065.93.00.783.80.0210.017765040
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Twins
110-0.135.34.80.863.40.0230.016500036
132-0.135.74.30.893.70.0230.017600039
154-0.136.24.00.924.00.0240.018700042
176-0.136.63.80.964.30.0250.019800045
198-0.137.03.60.994.60.0250.020900048
Last 4–6 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Singles
1100.103.53.20.382.10.0130.010425024
1320.103.72.80.402.20.0130.011510026
1540.104.02.60.422.30.0140.012596027
1760.104.22.40.442.40.0140.013680028
1980.104.42.20.472.50.0140.014765030
Last 4–6 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Twins
1100.204.64.20.673.00.0200.013425032
1320.205.13.80.703.30.0200.014510034
1540.205.53.60.733.60.0200.015595038
1760.205.73.20.763.70.0210.016680039
1980.205.93.00.783.80.0210.017765040

 

Table 1. Daily Nutrient Requirements of Sheep (Per Animal) - Ewe Lambs

Source: National Research Council, 2007.
aTo convert dry matter to an as-fed basis, divide dry matter values by the percentage of dry matter in the particular feed.
bOne pound TDN (total digestible nutrients) = 0.91 Mcal DE (digestible energy)
cThese are the maximum weight gains expected.
dThese lambs are intended for breeding, so maximum weight gains and finish are of secondary importance.
eValues are applicable for ewes in moderate condition. Fat ewes should be fed according to the next lower weight category, and thin ewes at the next higher weight category. Once the desired or moderate weight condition is attained, use that weight category through all production stages.
Body Weight (lb.)Avg. Daily Gain (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNbCalcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.) Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Nonlactating, First 15 Weeks of Gestation
880.353.13.50.341.80.0120.007188021
1100.303.33.00.351.90.0110.007235022
1320.303.52.70.352.00.0120.007282024
1540.283.72.40.362.20.0120.008329026
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (100% –120% Lambing Rate Expected)
880.403.33.80.412.10.0140.007340022
1100.353.53.20.422.20.0140.007425024
1320.353.72.80.422.40.0140.008510026
1540.334.02.60.432.50.0150.009595027
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (130% –175% Lambing Rate Expected)
880.503.33.80.442.20.0160.008340022
1100.503.53.20.452.30.0170.008425024
1320.503.72.80.462.50.0180.009510026
1540.474.02.60.462.50.0180.010596027
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Singles (Wean by 8 Weeks)
88-0.113.74.20.562.50.0130.009340026
110-0.114.64.20.623.10.0140.010425032
132-0.115.13.80.653.40.0150.011510034
154-0.115.53.60.683.60.0160.012545038
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Twins (Wean by 8 Weeks)
88-0.224.65.20.673.20.0180.012400032
110-0.225.14.60.713.50.0190.011500034
132-0.225.54.20.743.80.0200.014600038
154-0.226.03.90.774.10.0200.015700040

 

Table 2. Required Nutrient Concentrations of Sheep Rations - Lambs

Expressed on 100% Dry Matter Basis

Source: National Research Council, 2007.
aValues in table 2 are calculated from the daily requirements in table 1 ÷ DM intake.
Body Weight (lb.)Avg. Daily Gain (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNb (lb.)Calcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.)Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Early-weaned Lambs, Moderate Growth Potential
220.441.15.034.581.873364279
440.552.25.016.881.855234279
660.662.94.314.575.852244867
880.763.33.813.378.852245707
1100.663.33.012.178.845247127
Early-weaned Lambs, Rapid Growth Potential
220.551.36.027.084.685383619
440.662.66.017.376.954233619
660.723.14.715.577.452234557
880.883.33.815.475.858275707
1100.943.73.414.375.757306357
1320.773.72.814.375.749277627
Lambs Finishing, Age 4–7 Months
660.652.94.314.572.448244867
880.603.54.011.777.140205377
1100.453.53.210.077.134206717
Replacement Ewe Lambs
660.502.64.015.865.454235427
880.403.13.512.664.542196067
1100.263.33.09.157.633157127
1320.223.32.59.157.630158547
1540.223.32.18.857.630189977
Replacement Ram Lambs
880.734.04.513.562.50.430.204706
1320.705.34.011.064.10.340.175325
1760.646.23.59.562.90.310.166065
2200.556.63.08.863.60.270.157125

 

Table 2. Required Nutrient Concentrations of Sheep Rations - Ewe Lambs

Expressed on 100% Dry Matter Basis

Source: National Research Council, 2007.
aValues in table 2 are calculated from the daily requirements in table 1 ÷ DM intake.
Body Weight (lb.)Avg. Daily Gain (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNb (lb.)Calcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.)Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Maintenance
1100.022.22.09.554.50.180.1810687
1320.022.41.89.554.20.210.2111757
1540.022.61.79.657.70.190.1912657
1760.022.91.69.355.20.210.2112967
1980.023.11.59.354.80.210.2113647
Flushing: 2 Weeks Prebreeding and First 3 Weeks of Breeding
1100.223.53.29.460.00.340.176717
1320.223.72.89.259.50.320.167627
1540.224.02.69.057.50.300.188227
1760.224.22.49.159.50.310.178957
1980.224.42.28.959.10.300.189617
Nonlactating, First 15 Weeks of Gestation
1100.072.62.49.657.70.230.199047
1320.072.92.29.355.20.240.179727
1540.073.12.09.354.80.260.1910617
1760.073.31.99.454.50.240.2111397
1980.073.51.89.454.30.260.2312087
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (130% –150% Lambing Rate Expected)
1100.403.53.210.960.00.370.2912147
1320.403.72.810.859.50.350.3013787
1540.404.02.610.557.50.350.3014907
1760.404.22.410.557.10.330.3116197
1980.404.42.210.756.80.320.3217387
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (180%–225% Lambing Rate Expected)
1100.503.73.411.664.80.380.1911487
1320.504.03.011.265.00.380.2012757
1540.504.22.711.266.70.400.2414167
1760.504.42.511.165.90.410.3015457
1980.504.62.311.165.20.430.3016637
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Singles
110-0.064.64.214.665.20.430.289237
132-0.065.13.813.764.70.390.2710007
154-0.065.53.613.365.50.360.2710827
176-0.065.73.213.364.90.370.2811937
198-0.065.93.013.264.40.360.2912967
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Twins
110-0.135.34.816.264.10.430.309437
132-0.135.74.315.664.90.400.3010527
154-0.136.24.014.864.50.390.2911297
176-0.136.63.814.565.10.380.2912127
198-0.137.03.614.165.70.360.2912857
Last 4–6 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Singles
1100.103.53.210.960.00.370.2912147
1320.103.72.810.859.50.350.3013787
1540.104.02.610.557.50.350.3014907
1760.104.22.410.557.10.330.3116197
1980.104.42.210.756.80.320.3217387
Last 4–6 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Twins
1100.204.64.214.665.20.430.289247
1320.205.13.813.764.70.390.2710007
1540.205.53.613.365.50.360.2710827
1760.205.73.213.364.90.370.2811937
1980.205.93.013.264.40.360.2912967
Nonlactating, First 15 Weeks of Gestation
880.353.13.511.058.00.390.236067
1100.303.33.010.657.60.330.217127
1320.303.52.710.057.00.340.208067
1540.283.72.49.759.50.320.228897
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (100%–120% Lambing Rate Expected)
880.403.33.812.463.60.420.2110307
1100.353.53.212.062.90.400.2012147
1320.353.72.811.364.90.380.2213787
1540.334.02.610.762.50.380.2314877
Last 4 Weeks of Gestation (130%–175% Lambing Rate Expected)
880.503.33.813.366.70.480.2410307
1100.503.53.212.965.70.490.2312147
1320.503.72.812.467.50.490.2413787
1540.474.02.611.562.50.450.2514907
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Singles (Wean by 8 Weeks)
88-0.113.74.215.167.50.350.249197
110-0.114.64.213.567.40.300.229247
132-0.115.13.812.766.60.290.2210007
154-0.115.53.612.465.40.290.229917
First 6–8 Weeks of Lactation, Suckling Twins (Wean by 8 Weeks)
88-0.224.65.214.569.50.390.26869
110-0.225.14.613.968.60.370.20980
132-0.225.54.213.469.10.360.251091
154-0.226.03.912.868.30.330.251166

 

Table 3. Daily Nutrient Requirements of Goats (Per Animal)

Source: National Research Council, 2007.
a To convert dry matter to an as-fed basis, divide dry matter values by the percentage of dry matter in the particular feed.
bOne pound TDN (total digestible nutrients) = 0.91 Mcal DE (digestible energy)
cRequirements in addition to those for maintenance
d Annual fleece yield (lb)

Body Weight (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNb (lb.)Calcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.)Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Maintenance
220.632.800.050.350.0020.00240084
451.082.400.080.590.0020.002700144
671.462.200.110.800.0040.003900195
901.812.030.140.990.0040.0031200243
1122.131.900.171.170.0070.0051400285
1342.441.820.191.340.0070.0051600327
1572.761.800.211.500.0090.0061800369
1793.051.700.231.660.0090.0062000408
2023.321.640.261.810.0090.0062200444
2243.581.600.281.960.0110.0082400480
1323.72.812.467.50.490.2413787
Additional Requirements for Late Pregnancy (All Goats)c
1.560.180.870.0040.0031400213
Additional Requirements for Growth: Weight Gain at 0.11 Lb Per Day (All Goatsc)
0.400.030.220.0020.00230054
Additional Requirements for Growth: Weight Gain at 0.22 Lb Per Day (All Goatsc)
0.790.060.440.0020.002500108
Additional Requirements for Growth: Weight Gain at 0.33 Lb Per Day (All Goatsc)
1.190.090.660.0040.003800162
Additional Requirements for Milk Production Per Pound at Different Fat Percentages (% Fat)
30.130.730.0040.0033800760
30.140.740.0040.0033800760
40.150.750.0040.0033800760
40.160.760.0070.0053800760
50.170.770.0070.0053800760
50.180.780.0070.0053800760
Additional Requirements for Mohair Production by Angora at Different Production Levels (Lb)
4d0.020.04
9d0.040.07
13d0.060.11
18d0.070.15

 

Table 4. Required Nutrient Concentrations of Goat Rations (Expressed on 100% Dry Matter Basisa))

Source: National Research Council, 2007.
a Values in table 4 are calculated from the daily requirements in table 3 ÷ by DM intake
bOne pound TDN (total digestible nutrients) = 0.91 Mcal DE (digestible energy)
c Requirements in addition to those for maintenance
d Annual fleece yield (lb)

Body Weight (lb.)Dry Matter (lb./heada)% Body WeightTotal Protein (lb.)TDNb (lb.)Calcium (lb.)Phosphorous (lb.)Vitamin A (IU)Vitamin E (IU)
Maintenance
220.632.807.9355.550.3510.245660133
451.082.407.4054.620.2040.143660133
671.462.207.5354.90.3020.211660133
901.812.037.7354.690.2440.171660133
1122.131.907.9854.930.3100.217660133
1342.441.827.7754.920.2700.189660133
1572.761.807.6154.350.3190.223660133
1793.051.707.5454.430.2890.187660133
2023.321.647.8354.520.2650.186660133
2243.581.607.8254.50.3070.215670134
Additional Requirements for Late Pregnancy (All Goats)c
1.560.120.550.0030.002900136
Additional Requirements for Growth: Weight Gain at 0.11 Lb Per Day (All Goatsc)
0.400.080.0060.004750136
Additional Requirements for Growth: Weight Gain at 0.22 Lb Per Day (All Goatsc)
0.790.080.0030.002630136
Additional Requirements for Growth: Weight Gain at 0.33 Lb Per Day (All Goatsc)
1.190.080.0040.003670136
Additional Requirements for Milk Production Per Pound at Different Fat Percentages (% Fat)
30.130.730.0040.0033800760
30.140.740.0040.0033800760
40.150.750.0040.0033800760
40.160.760.0070.0053800760
50.170.770.0070.0053800760
50.180.780.0070.0053800760
Additional Requirements for Mohair Production by Angora at Different Production Levels (Lb)
4d0.020.04
9d0.040.07
13d0.060.11
18d0.070.15

 

Download a PDF of Nutrient Requirements of Sheep and Goats, ANR-0812.

Did you find this helpful?