While we have feed green feed fodder to sheep in New Zealand, we have not yet conducted our own intensive trial. What we found when feeding sheep was they took longer than cattle to take to the fodder at approximately 14 days as opposed to seven days with the cattle. That said, once they adjusted to the change in their diet, they welcomed the fodder each day that it was fed out.
Care will need to be taken in a drought situation where there may be less roughage to balance out the much richer fodder.
In the UK in 2012 a trial*1 was conducted comparing three groups of lambs with one group fed a diet of fodder replacing a portion of the hard feed and hay diet that the lambs were normally fed. (This was a trial on livestock housed inside for the majority of the trial, although towards the end lambs were allowed out into a paddock although forage was limited in the paddock.)
The results of the trial saw the lambs put on an average weight gain of 300gm a day on the fodder based diet. Although that did not differ significantly from the norm that was expected from the other two trial groups the result is very good when you consider:
- The poorest condition lambs in the group (the bottom third) were selected for the fodder trial
- The other two groups in the trial were fed a diet that consisted of high protein hard feed at a cost significantly higher than the cost of the fodder
- The gain over the three groups was expected to be in the range of 150 to 300gm per day. Obviously the bottom third group would have dragged the average down if they had remained on the hard feed diet alone.
- The amount of fodder fed varied over the course of the trial as lambs gained more weight
The trial concluded that 1.50-2.25Kg of fodder adequately replaced at least 85% of the concentrate in the diet of a store lamb which then produced viable weight gains as normally expected in a lamb of that age.
Further, despite the reduction in dry weight matter fed, the lambs performed well, from what may have been the result of a more balanced digestive system, leading to increased digestive performance. The trial also confirmed there was no detrimental effect in the productivity of the lambs when fattening on a diet based on fresh fodder, when compared to the usual fattening diet of the lambs (being silage and high protein hard feeds) either in the amount of weight gained, or the time taken to gain adequate weight ready for sale.
Our feeding regime has been based on lambs on pasture that were given 500gm of fodder per head for the first 30 days and progressively increasing to 1.5kg per head over eight weeks. Forage pasture was poor as the paddocks were subject to very dry, but not drought, conditions.
When feeding ewes or hoggets we feed at the rate of 1kg per day alongside paddock forage.
*1 Sheep Fodder Replacement Diet Trial; Liam McGreevy, March 2012