Document Type


Publication Date



sheep, sheep producters, feeding management, protein feeds

Extension Number

ExEx 2022


Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering


A short supply of traditional forage sources and much higher prices means that sheep producers should consider alternative feedings management strategies to lower their production costs. For large-flock owners, substituting feeds could prove to be a wise choice. For many small-flock owners, simple physical adjustments in feeding management could move feed costs inline with previous production cycles. Annual flock feed costs usually account for 50 to 70% of total expenses. However, very little time is actually spent determining the absolute dollar figure on a per ewe basis. For producers to lower feed costs in the current production cycle, it’s logical to first pinpoint the feed costs last year -- or an average over the past few years -- to make a comparison. What were your ewe feed costs last year? $60, $80, or $100 per ewe? Sheep producers often have ample high-quality alfalfa available at reasonable prices. In addition, large quantities of lower-quality grass hays are found in some areas of the country. Purebred and commercial producers with small flocks have grown accustomed to the vast supply of harvested forage. Feeding practices usually center on a high forage diet with supplemental energy and protein feeds. During the current production cycle many producers are faced with less forage available and subsequently much higher prices for forage, regardless of the quality. In contrast, feed grains prices are about one-half of last summer’s peak prices. Considering these basic economic facts on commonly used feeds, sheep producers can design diets that lower costs yet maintain the expected animal performance and flock health.


February 1997.