Interested in feeding your sheep and goats better and at a lower cost?

Stored feeds are expensive. By extending the grazing season and improving your feeding system you can reduce the cost of production in small ruminant operations.

Winter feeding makes up a large part of the feeding cost of most small ruminants. Late season grazing can reduce animal feed costs per day by 30 to 50 percent for every day grazed compared to feeding hay. Planting annual crops in late July to early August that will grow well in the cool, frosty conditions of fall is an option. Brassicas, like turnips and forage rape, are commonly used along with mixtures of small grains like oats, triticale and rye. Many of these summer annual crops can be planted after a crop like wheat or to replace pasture as grass growth slows in summer as part of a pasture renovation plan. These mixtures grow fast when they get adequate moisture and maintain their forage quality well after they stop growing. This is especially true of the below ground tubers of turnips which will stay nutritious well into the winter. Animals will graze these pastures even with moderate amounts of snow cover.

Many feeding systems also cost producers money in wasted feed and time. Improving existing feeding systems can save producers time and money.

If you are interested in learning more about late season grazing, small ruminant feeding systems, and seeing a new portable handling system for small ruminants, Michigan State University Extension and Richard Ehrhardt, MSU Extension small ruminant extension specialist, are hosting an afternoon field day in the Eaton Rapids area on Nov. 9, 2013. The afternoon will begin with a seminar on forage feeding systems held at the nearby Onondaga Township hall (1-2 p.m.) and immediately followed by a field day at the Ehrhardt sheep farm. At the farm, a demonstration of a portable handling system will take place (2:30-3:30 p.m.). This will be followed by tours and demonstrations of a center aisle feeding system as well as grazing management of both perennial and annual pastures. For more information contact Ehrhardt at or 517-353-2906.

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