Marketing and a nutrition program are part of a successful program for feeder animals

For many small ruminant producers, selling feeder lambs and kids creates an additional product and income stream. This endeavor, like any in agriculture, takes some research and effort, but when done well it can complement other herd and flock goals.

Creating a successful market for feeder lambs and/or kids first requires establishing your target market audience, explained Dr. Chelsey Kimbrough, specialty livestock/youth education epecialist with the University of Arkansas Extension. 

“Sheep have both a traditional market and a non-traditional market (such as ethic, religious markets),” she explained. 

Traditional markets consist of lambs that are late winter/spring born. Traditional market lambs will range in weight from 120 to 160 pounds and will usually be between 8 to 14 months old. The non-traditional market prefers a lighter lamb. Dr. Kimbrough said, typically 50 to 90 pounds, making them much younger, generally 3 to 7 months old. Since religious holidays are the peak times for non-traditional markets, these lambs are typically late summer/early fall born. Goat kids also have the opportunity for niche markets. 

“One is for hothouse kids. This consists of Easter and cabrito markets,” Kimbrough said. “For these markets, kids are typically 18 to 35 pounds. Another popular holiday market includes Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday. It is preferred that kids have all their baby teeth and weigh between 55 and 75 pounds.” 

Kimbrough stressed the importance of researching and learning about the needs and desires of religious and ethnic markets to create a successful niche for feeder lambs and kids. 

“When marketing to the Caribbean peoples, they prefer mature bucks while some prefer dark colored or black goats,” she explained, “Once you have established your marketing audience, you will better understand what restrictions, weight and time of year you are aiming toward as the different markets have varying end goals.”

A successful feeder program includes proper nutrition for developing lambs and kids. Every producer’s herd or flock will have different nutritional needs, so it is best to develop a program with the help of a local veterinarian, livestock nutritionist or Extension professional who is familiar with the animals. One common aspect of a nutrition program is providing mineral, but it’s important to remember that goats require a high amount of copper in their diet, whereas sheep do not, so producers will need to ensure they are putting out the appropriate mineral for their animals. 

Along with nutrition comes a host of potential nutritional diseases producers need to be aware of, Kimbrough cautioned. Many of these issues are triggered by the improper introduction of grain and concentrates, which are often utilized to get lambs and kids to target market weights. 

Acidosis is related to a change from a forage-based diet to a high-concentrate diet. It is important to transition slowly to a grain-based diet while still incorporating roughages.

Enterotoxemia, also known as overeating disease, occurs when there is a sudden increase of bacteria in the small intestine commonly occurring in younger animals. Clostridum perfringins Type C and D naturally occur in the intestine, but a sudden increase in concentrates causes them to reproduce rapidly and release a toxin. The best preventative is to vaccinate against enterotoxemia and to gradually increase concentrates in their diets. 

Bloat comes in two different types: legume/pasture or frothy/grain. Legume/pasture bloat can be caused from different legume forage species including alfalfa, ladino or white clover and Persian clover. Additionally, lush ryegrass or small grain pastures can also be the cause of bloat. Frothy/grain bloat occurs when high-grain diets are fed. 

“Do not turn out hungry sheep or goats on lush legume or small grain pastures. They first need to be fed hay before turning out. When going from a forage-based to a grain-based diet, it is important to gradually introduce the grain,” Kimbrough advised.

Urinary calculi occurs when there is a calcium deficiency. Kimbrough stressed the importance of ensuring that rations have a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio. When the phosphorus level exceeds the calcium level, stones can form and can get stuck in the urethra, causing males difficulty when urinating.

Prussic acid poisoning occurs when plants are stressed and wilted, and become unsafe for sheep and goats to consume due to the hydrocyanic acid. Susceptible plants include grain sorghum, Johnsongrass, sorghum-Sudan grasses and many fruit trees. 

Nitrate poisoning occurs when sheep or goats consume an excessive amount of nitrate or nitrite from grazing crops, hay, silage, weeds or water. When there has been an excess in fertilizer usage or stress, plants contain a buildup of nitrates. These nitrates alter the hemoglobin in the blood causing less oxygen to be carried through the bloodstream. 

Good research, market establishment and a level of awareness about proper nutrition and nutritional issues that can affect feeders will help a producer create a successful niche for their lambs and kids.


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