Managing intensively Fed Sheep

Managing intensively Fed Sheep

Managing intensively Fed Sheep.  
By Tim Guinan, B. Agri. Sc., 087 257 3368

We are about to head into another store lamb feeding season and in a few short months we will be heading into another lambing season. While the risk of both Copper Toxicity and Urinary Calculi occurring in sheep is ever present, the store lamb finishing and lambing seasons tend to be more problematic in this regard. Thankfully, cases are extremely rare, but that said, virtually every mill in the country has had cases reported to it over the years, and Urinary Calculi in particular, appears to be on the rise in recent years. This is quite concerning for sheep farmers because it can result in expensive losses if it occurs. It is also quite concerning for us as feed suppliers because the tendency has been to assume the feed is always at fault and therefore, the feed mill should be fully accountable for losses incurred when cases arise.

The fact of the matter is that both conditions are multifactorial. So, while it is fair to say, that many problems tend to be associated (although not always) with the more intensive/long-term feeding of concentrates to sheep, there are many other contributory factors for both conditions, that are totally outside of the feed supplier’s control and for which the farmer must take responsibility.

These include:

  • Feeding rates
  • Duration of feeding period
  • Feeding space & feed management
  • Nutritional history
  • Breed & Age of the sheep
  • Housing conditions
  • Water access & quality
  • Forage mineral balance
  • The presence/absence of stress factors & disease

So, our position in J Grennan & Sons is that as the feed supplier, we should not be automatically deemed accountable for financial losses if cases occur. While the feed and its manufacturing process are obviously very important, all the other factors mentioned above are equally, if not more important. Consequently, they need to be very carefully assessed and managed correctly by the farmer, every time concentrates are introduced to sheep. This is particularly important for the more intensive/indoor lamb finishers and/or those feeding high value pedigree breeding stock. We are happy to advise and support any customer in this regard. 

J Grennan & Sons will, as always, continue to go to great rounds using the most up to date feed additives, formulation expertise and manufacturing practices to prevent both Copper Toxicity and Urinary Calculi in sheep and do all we can to keep cases to an absolute minimum. We believe our track record in this regard is second to none and we are very proud of that. Should an issue ever arise on your farm, we will do everything we can to work with you and find the real source of the problem, but we refuse to be held accountable by default, for losses incurred.