Professor, Animal Science
Iowa State University
Winter feed costs are the primary cost item in all sheep enterprises. Shorter hay supplies along with poor pasture conditions increases the need to evaluate alternative feeding scenarios for this winter. Big bales are much, much cheaper than small squares so switching to that hay source automatically can save substantial feed dollars. Many of us on small acreages may not have access to equipment to handle large hay packages. Excessive intakes by the ewe can result in over conditioning, but can be moderated by limited access to the big packages. This can be accomplished by restricting access to the bales for only an hour or two per day or every other day access. Adequate bales need to be set out such that all ewes can easily get to the bales to feed. Bale rings or feeders of some sort are always advised to control waste. The other way to control intake is fork off a set amount per day. Normally this would be the amount ewes clean up in a 24 hour period.
Feeding a more energy dense rations by substituting corn for hay is another means of stretching the hay supply. As a rule, one pound of corn can replace a pound and half of hay. Hay is currently costing $.10 or more per pound whereas corn is $.06 per pound which makes corn a very attractive buy. Another feed source that should be considered is a mixture of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and soybean hulls in a 20:80 ratio. This mix is better when the hay source is low in protein. So in this situation, you could feed a daily ration of 50% hay and 50% grain but reduce the total amount fed by 30 to 40% since grain is more energy dense. Flock owners should monitor body condition and make adjustments on amount offered if ewes are getting thin or fat.