Feeding silage and haylage to sheep and goats ?

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I sold some sheep recently to a man who grows and sells hay silage and corn silage for cattle . He asked about using it for the sheep and some goats he bought. I have no experience with it so asked my vet. She did not recommend it as she felt if there were any pockets within the silage that were not properly fermented, the risk of circling disease ( listerious) or enterotoxemia can happen.Do any of you use these feeds? What is your experience?

-- Kate henderson (kate@sheepyvalley.com), November 29, 2001


Kate, the information that I have is exactly the same, perhaps goat and sheep being small ruminents are more susceptible to listerosis and entero. Sorry that isn't much help. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), November 29, 2001.

I do know that you need to make sure they have enough long fiber, 3 inches or more, to keep their rumen's working well. So even if you supplement with alfalfa pellets, etc. you need to have hay available. Because they are smaller animals they may be more sensitive if it is not properly fermented versus a cow who is larger. You do have more time with a cow if they bloat versus a sheep or goat usually. I have never used silage but have used chopped alfalfa to my does, with free choice grass hay and pasture.

-- Leslie in Western WA (sundaycreek@gnrac.net), November 30, 2001.

Just wanted to point out there is a difference between silage and haylage. Silage is plant material put up at a high moisture content in airtight containers. Haylage can be the same plant material, but which has been allowed to dry down some before being stored. Since haylage does not have the moisture content of silage, it is preserved rather than fermented. Good haylage should crumble in your hands. There should be far fewer problems feeding haylage to small ruminants than silage. However, mold may still be a problem.

I don't know if the practice is used in the U.S., but in Croatia they don't harvest the corn until it is mostly dry and the ears hard. When put up in open pits, it produces a rather nice haylage.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), November 30, 2001.

Kate, I remember reading an article about feeding silage or haylage to dairy goats a few years ago. The article stated that fermented feeds such as these would give an off-flavor to milk if used in very great quantity but could be used as a supplement. There were also issues with the fact that sheep and goats are such small ruminants. If I can find the article, I'll send it to you. I would check with your local extension agent if I were you.

-- Sheryl in Me (radams@sacoriver.net), November 30, 2001.

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