September 17, 2021

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Take a Goldilocks approach to mineral intake | Livestock

Just like Goldilocks, an important part of a successful sheep or goat mineral program is balance. Too little intake, and your sheep and goats won’t get the nutrients they need. Too much, and your cost of mineral fed starts to climb.

“If you’re feeding a quality mineral and everything’s balanced as it should, performance can increase with better feed efficiency, fertility enhances from higher lamb and kid crops, and health outcomes can improve,” says Clay Elliott, Ph.D. and small ruminant nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “On the flip side, when a quality mineral isn’t present, conception rates drop, hoof problems pickup and performance can fall.”

Get just the right amount of mineral consumption with these tips:

Consistency is key to drive intakes

A pivotal element to any mineral program is providing vital nutrients your sheep and goats might lack and having it available when they need it. Mineral consumption can fluctuate throughout the year based on forage quality, but there is never a point where sheep or goats won’t need mineral. To ensure consistent intake, provide a balanced mineral year-round.

“Feeding mineral year-round is cost-saving because sheep and goats don’t have to play catch up,” says Maggie Amburgey, small ruminant technical specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “Every time the mineral feeder is empty, they’re trying to balance themselves. But when there is mineral already present, they won’t need to catch up.”

A weatherized mineral can also further enhance mineral consumption.

“Utilizing a weatherized mineral with larger particle sizes benefits consumption because the mineral won’t clump up when wet or blow away,” says Amburgey.

Look for balanced nutrients

Quality minerals for sheep and goats balance nutrients like calcium, cobalt, phosphorus, iodine, manganese, selenium and zinc. They all have a role in optimizing and maintaining performance.

“Calcium is especially important for sheep and goats because having it at a high enough rate limits the risk of hypocalcemia and improves reproduction,” says Amburgey.

Additionally, it is crucial to have a mineral mix formulated specifically for sheep or goats because copper is toxic to sheep if fed at the requirements needed for goats.

Salt on its own won’t cut it

Sheep and goats need salt. However, offering salt as the only mineral available to your flock or herd won’t meet all their needs.

“It’s not uncommon in some pastures to see sheep and goats only receiving a salt block,” says Elliott. “That won’t get the job done when you want to push for higher weaning rates and breeding percentages.”

When salt is fed at too high of a level, sheep and goats can become dehydrated or even stop grazing as actively. Rather than feeding a salt block or on its own from a bag, feed salt in a balanced mineral fortified with trace minerals and vitamins to meet your flock and herd’s total nutrient requirements.

Mineral site considerations

Mineral has additional advantages outside of providing nutrition to sheep and goats. When placed strategically in a pasture, mineral can optimize how sheep and goats graze.

Move mineral sites throughout the pasture during the grazing season to help the flock or herd move to underutilized areas of forage. Use your best judgment when moving mineral sites to get the optimum consumption of mineral and forages.

“One important thing to remember is you don’t want mineral consumption to fall too low,” says Elliott. “If you move mineral sites too far from heavily trafficked areas like shade or water, consumption can fall.”