Feeding Sheep…for a Clean Fleece

Those of you who raise sheep particularly for their wool for hand-spinning and other fiber arts, know the importance – and value – of a CLEAN fleece! By clean, I mean as free from “vegetable matter”  (what we call VM ) as is possible. It all boils down to HOW we feed our sheep, economically and without waste.

I own a small flock of Shetland Sheep, a primitive breed originating from the Shetland Islands. They’re very easy keepers, getting FAT on summer grass alone! But, when the snow blankets the grass, we must hay our flock – and that’s where we’re challenged to minimize the hay from ending up in their fleece. To complicate matters, my goats (with different eating habits), are housed in the same area.

So, we’ve designed a hay feeder that we’re currently ‘trialing’ to see if it: 1) minimizes waste (if it falls on the ground, they won’t eat it!) and 2) keeps the hay out of the sheeps’ wool fleece! It’s a simple construction using some plywood (for the base), 2 X 4’s for the frame and skids and ‘hog’ panel found at TSC. We placed the feed ‘box’ on wood skids to prevent it from tipping over. It can accommodate 2 flakes of hay layed side-by-side. The idea is the animal puts their head in and down. May not be the best option for ‘horned’ sheep/goats, as our little pygmy goat got her head stuck once already. I also believe our ram Testiamo would probably DESTROY the hay feeder – ramming it just for fun!

Here are the specific dimensions which can be adapted to suit your particular needs: L 43 1/2 ” X  W 19 1/2 ” X H 38″ . The legs/skids are 48″ long (to prevent it from being tipped over). The hog panel is attached with horse shoe nails. The height off the ground is 12 “.  If you make it larger to allow  more animals to ‘belly-up’, you’ll sacrifice portability due to its size/weight. I’m already planning to construct an additional feeder and ‘modify’ some existing wall feeders we have in the barn…before the snow flys!   




We’ve also modified our salt/mineral feeder to accomodate dietary needs of the sheep and goats. The new PVC pipe (4-inch diameter, elbow & end cap) prevents the goat kids from climbing into & on top of, the old wall mounted salt feeder dish and playing ‘king of the mountain’. Did you know that salt/minerals are very important feed supplements for both sheep and goats? Also, copper is toxic to sheep, but required mineral for goats. While we offer free-choice sheep salt in the barn, the goats receive their grain ration on the milk stand where they are also offered their salt ration…   If this works out, we’ll add another ‘feeder’ for the sodium bicarb.

salt feeder

We’ll see how it goes and whether we’ll build another to accomodate all the hungry critters! I’ll keep you posted…

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