Q: What pad (pen) size should I plan for a bunk feedlot?
A: If it’s a total mixed ration system delivered in a bunk, plan for 15 cm bunk space per head, and have 200-250 head per pen. 250 hd x 15 cm = 37.5 mtr bunk length.
If it’s feeders, and accessed both sides, allow 7cm per head trough space. 3 feeders per 200-250 head would suffice. Our pens with feeders are 24x40 mtr with 6 feeders along the narrow end with single sided access, and water at the other end. See our Sheep Feedlot Manual and Cheat Sheets.
Q: What sort of roughage is best to use in a feedlot?
A: In short, whatever you can get that is cheap. Straw, almond hulls etc. can both be blended easily in a total mixed ration, or straw/pasture bales put into hay racks. We use lucerne cow hay or pasture hay as we grow some each year and it’s cheap. Ensure the hay doesn’t have dust to reduce pink eye or respiratory issues, and has no barley grass seed.
Q: Do you use mineral supplements in the feedlot?
A: We use a buffer pellet which has 3% crude protein, acid buffer and minerals (Nutrimax 10), and don’t feed any loose or liquid mineral supplements. The 3% CP brings our 13% barley up to the required 16% CP. Our ration is 90% barley and 10% Nutrimax 10 pellet. We have also used MSM Milling and Ambos pellets. It comes down to what you need to balance your ration and the cost of landed product. Always try buy in bulk to save $$$.
Q: Any tips on optimising feedlot design?
A: The biggest tip is to locate and design the feedlot infrastructure to optimise farm work flow efficiency. Close to yards, easy to inspect, easy to access, close for machinery and commodity delivery. The next step is to optimise the design for labour efficiency and make use of the labour and equipment that you already have. Think laneways, ration delivery, maintenance, cleaning etc. See our Sheep Feedlot Manual and Cheat Sheets.
Q: What is the target Metabolisable Energy, Crude Protein and Liveweight Gain?
A: Metabolisable Energy (ME): > 12 ME/kgDM
Crude Protein (CP): 16%
Liveweight Gain (LWG): >280 g/hd/d for XB lambs and >250 g/hd/d for merino lambs.
Feed Conversion: aim for 4-5 kg intake per kg LWG.
Cost-of-gain: aim for the lowest cost of gain possible. Create the required nutrition profile using the lowest cost inputs. This is the most important part to having a profitable feedlot.
See the Feedlot Calculator to determine cost-of-gain.
Q: What are the key variables that impact profit and loss in a sheep feedlot?
A: 1. Animal selection – selecting animals that have the genetic and phenotypical characteristics to perform in a feedlot environment.
- Cost-of-gain – achieving performance at a low cost.
- Induction – training animals to feed and condition the rumen to process a grain-based ration. The induction process also sets the animals up for performance and prevents costly animal health issues. See the Sheep Feedlot Induction Procedure.
Q: How do you manage pneumonia in sheep feedlots?
A: Prevention: shelter/shade, no dust in roughage, access to roughage during hot weather or weather changes, wet down pads if dusty, ensure enough pen space, quality water supply, early detection and isolation will prevent spreading (having a hospital pen or isolation area is very useful). Test to see if it’s lungworm. Consult your vet for animal health treatment advice.
Treatment: can be treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic available from your vet.
Q: How much do you open the feeders in the feedlot?
A: Once sheep are fully inducted they go into the feedlot and the feeders are open, approximately 10-15mm (index finger on its side is a good gauge). Ours stay open at that width. The induction process is the key and will prevent them from gorging. Sometimes gorging is also a result of not enough trough space. Have a look at our Induction Procedure which has a step-by-step process that we developed. Makes it simple.