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Feeding, breeding and management of small ruminants (goats/sheep)

Feeding, breeding and management of small ruminants  (goats/sheep)

Feeding in small ruminants depends on the age of the animal, the physiological state of the animal (lactation or pregnancy), and the quantity of the roughage being fed.

Feeding of adult goats or sheep

Hay or crop residues should be provided always in addition to 1-2kg per animal per day or legume hay for example groundnuts, haulms, beans pod, or cowpea residues. Animals at this stage need feed for maintenance it is therefore not necessary to overfeed them.

Feeding of pregnant goats or sheep

In addition to hay, a farmer should feed good quality legume hay at the rate of 1.5-2.5kg per animal per day or concentrates can be fed at a daily rate of 200-300g per animal per day. But higher levels of feeding can be maintained especially during the last month of pregnancy when the fetus grows very rapidly and courses increased damage to the mother’s food supply. This practice of enhanced feeding just before parturition is referred to as steaming up.

Advantages of good feeding to a pregnant goat or sheep

Providing nourishment for the development of the filters usually results in a strong kid/lamb at birth.

Enhances the development of the udder and ensures adequate milk production of the doe/ewe.

Prepares the dam/the mother for the difficult task of parturition.

Builds up body results of flesh on doe/ewe.

Feeding of nursing/lactating goats or sheep.

This group of animals can be fed like pregnant females but the level of feeding should be slightly increased to ensure that the mother produces enough milk for feeding the offspring.

In addition, hay and concentrate supplements should be provided at the rate of 300-500g /animal /day.

Adequate feeding of lactating does/ewes increases the survival rate of the kids/lambs.

It also increases the resistance to diseases in young lambs and kids.

It also ensures a fast growth rate in kids and lambs.

 Feeding of growers (growing goats/sheep).

A supplement of 0.5-1kg legume hay /animal /day in addition to free choice Feeding on roughage is sufficient for this class of animals.

Feeding of breeding makes.

When males are not in service, they should be maintained on good grazing or crop residue adlib plus 1-2kg legume hay /animal /day.

About a month to being used for service, they should be placed on good grazing or crop residue plus 300gm of concentrate mixture.

The practice of enhanced feeding of either male or female prior to breeding is referred to as flushing.

Advantages of flushing goats/sheep

In males, it increases the quality and quantity of semen produced.

In females, it increases the number of shades.

It increases the conception rate.

It ensures a greater chance of twinning/triplets in the dam or mother goat.

NB: Care should be taken to prevent over feeding of the male as this will lead to fattening which is not desired in breeding males.


Does/ewes come on heat (oestrus) at regular intervals of about 18-21days if not bred (oestrus cycle). The oestrus period (the only period the female can accept the male) lasts for about 3days or 72 hours

Signs of heat (oestrus) in goats or sheep.

. Frequent urination.

. Un easiness.

. Tail shaking.

. Swollen vulva with little mucus discharge.

. Bellowing.

. Mounting of other animals.

. Reddening of the vulva.

. Restless. The animal moves from one place to another.

Mating methods in goats and sheep

 They are two main mating methods in goats and sheep namely;

·  Natural service.

·  Artificial inseminations

Natural service.

This involves the natural copulation of the buck/ram to a doe/ewe. In areas where most females and males are kept together, there is no restriction to mating, where females are kept separately from males, careful observation particularly in the early morning should be carried out to notice females on heat so as to breed them.

Artificial inseminations.

This is a method of serving a female goat or sheep in which instead of a buck/ram serving the doe/ewe, naturally, an inseminating syringe is pushed through the vulva and the vagina, and semen is deposited in the lower part of the uterus. Click to check for advantages and disadvantages of artificial insemination

Reasons why artificial insemination has not been practiced in some parts of the world.

Lack of enough semen banks.

Lack of chemicals for large semen preservation for example solid nitrogen.

Lack of enough proven males.

Inadequate technical know-how.

Management of breeding females (does and ewes).

The management of breeding females here is divided into three main phases.

1) Dry period (the period between weaning to gestation)

·  This usually lasts about 3 months.

·  The doe/ewe is least productive at this period.

·  It is the time the dam recovers from the stress of the previous pregnancy and lactation.

·  It is also a time when the dam prepares for the next pregnancy period, does/ewes should be given a higher plane of nutrition. Flushing results in a higher/ lambing in a higher percentage.

·       For mating, the ratio of buck/ram to does/ewe is 1:20-40. Hand service (isolating females on heat and introducing them to males ) can increase the number of females to 50 under intensive management.

2)   Pregnancy period (gestation period)

This refers to the period between successful mating to parturition. In sheep and goats this period is about 5oonths.

·  Foetal development in the first 3 months of pregnancy is normally slow hence making appreciable increases in feed supply.

·  In the last 4-6weeks prior to parturition and quality of the feed given should be increased in order to meet the nutrient requirement of the fetus as well as the dam.

·  This enhances feeding at this period just before parturition is called steaming up.

Reasons for streaming up

low doe/ewe and kid/lamb mortality.

Greater development of udder tissues and high milk-yielding potential for the dam.

Higher live weight gain in the young thus heavier adult stock.

NB: water and minerals should be provided ad lib.

Signs of lambing/kidding.

Un easiness that is to say the animal becomes restless.

 The animal is constantly standing up, sitting down, and smelling the ground.

There is an enlargement of the udder.

Lack of appetite. The animal loses interest in grazing and lags behind the flock.

The vulva appears slightly swollen with some mucus this charge.

3) Lactation period

This is the period at which the mother animal produces milk to feed its young one.

· Feeding lactating animals is aimed at increased milk production to meet the need of the offspring. Normally feed requirements of lactating females are greater than during pregnancy.