Written by Frances Nicol, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development
There is often a misconception that hay is only meant for cattle and horses. However, sheep and goats are also ruminant animals and need to digest forages to complete their diet.
If you are taking a sheep and/or goat project to the fair, make sure you provide plenty of hay at home and during the fair week. If these animals do not have forages in their diet, it can have detrimental effects on their nutrition and product quality. Because of their rumen bacteria, they are able to digest large amount of cellulose which is found in plant fibers. This provides them the necessary carbohydrates for a balanced diet.
Your livestock resource book has recommendations on how much hay/forages you should provide to your animal. Often, it is the grain diet that should be given in portioned quantities as they tend to eat too much, while hay can be fed “free choice”, meaning the animals should always have access to hay for them to graze on.
It is also important to have the right quality of hay. The nutrition chapter of your Goat or Sheep Resource Books have more information on the quality of hay and and other feeds, proper storage, etc.
Proper nutrition is the basis of a healthy animal. If they are not being fed properly, it can not only affect the meat or product quality, but also the general well being and health of the animal. Please be sure you are doing your research before purchasing feed for your animals.
For more information, check out your 4-H project books and Resource Handbooks or call the extension office at 740-852-0975 or a livestock key leader with any questions about feeding your livestock.
Source: Goat Resource Handbook, Ohio State University Extension, 2016