One thing I have learned over the years is to not be set on one thing and being afraid to try something different. I have visited numerous farms across the US that all do things different and I have taken something from each of them. Some things to do or change and some things to not do.
One thing I am currently doing that is not the norm is I don’t feed hay during the winter. Hay to me is the biggest waste of money and resources every. People spend lots of money on fertilizer. Lots of time all summer cutting and baling hay. Then lots of time during the winter feeding it all the while your animals waste it. Not to mention the nutritional value fluctuates all over the place. That led me on a quest to do a complete ration. Speaking with the late Dr Kennedy of Pipestone about my idea, he gave me some pointers and things to think about it and off I went. 2020 complete my 3rd winter of no hay and I don’t see me going back to hay anytime soon!
I tried several different ways of feeding them and the best solution I found was the Advantage 3N1 feeders. I use a soyhull pellet with corn gluten/cracked corn mixture to provide the required fiber and energy for the ewes going into late gestation.
The feeder requires the sheep to lick the feed which will dry out the tongue. Then they have to leave and come back. Eliminates choke and sheep are never crowded around the feeder. This allows lambs to learn to eat with mom without being crowded out like a typical bunk feeder or fenceline feeder.
Another practice I am trying this year are summer annuals. We currently have mostly fescue pastures that have been heavily over grazed all my life with cattle and horses. Now trying to max out the number of ewes I can run on the farm I need my fescue/clover pastures to last as long into the winter as possible. Hopefully summer annuals will allow my fescue to rest during the summer when it goes dormant and give it a head start for more growth going into late fall for winter stockpiling. My mix is sudangrass, sunflowers, cowpeas and pearl millet. This should provide plenty of great forages for the ewes all summer and provide extra nutrients for the soil as well.