Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening:
Sheep fattening/Finishing involves intensive feeding of sheep and goats to slaughter weight with adequate finish (fat deposit) in feedlots. This targets the local market that has high demand for fat animals.
1) Selection of sheep and goats for fattening
Consider the following when selecting sheep and goats for intensive fattening:
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Condition: Select animals that are healthy and have no visible physical defects. Avoid emaciated animals as their poor condition may not entirely be due to nutritional factors. Emaciated animals often take a long time to recover.
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Skeletal frame: The animals should have a large skeletal frame and good body condition.
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Castration factor: Castration influences the fattening process. Castrated animals deposit more fat while uncastrated animals have more muscular growth. The selection of castrated or uncastrated animals depends on the final product desired and market conditions. Castrated sheep and goats have a higher demand in the local market especially during the holidays.
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Breed factor: Identify breeds with greatest potential for growth and fattening. Early maturing breeds start depositing fat at an earlier age and can be ready for market at a lower weight. They need a shorter feeding period to reach a good carcass finish although their growth rates are relatively lower. Late maturing types can reach market readiness at a higher weight. In general, lowland animals mature late compared with highland animals. Hence, lowland animals are preferred for the production of fattened animals at a higher weight.
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Sex: Females are earlier maturing than males. Males can do well in feedlots, but often cause problems by fighting. Females can do well in feedlots, but often have lower growth rates partly because they reach carcass finish at an earlier age.
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Weight factor of animals: Weight of animals at the start of the feeding operation governs the duration of feeding and the types and amounts of feedstuffs needed. Lightweight (15-20 kg) animals can use more roughage, whereas heavier lambs (>25 kg) require more concentrates and a shorter feeding period. Light weight sheep and goats are more desirable for conditioning based on a larger proportion of roughage, whereas heavier animals perform best where high concentrate diets are used. It is therefore best to use sheep and goats with weights ranging from 20-25 Kg for the fattening operation to take advantage of the two situations.
- Sheep Fattening and Goat Fattening – Age factor: Animals can be placed on intensive feeding at any age, usually after weaning. Avoid animals that are too old. Check that the teeth are sound. This has implications on feed utilization. It is advisable to select sheep/goats between 2 and 4years of age for fattening;
- The fattening program should be started after the necessary feed supplies are secured. Underfeeding and incorrect timing are the most common causes of failures in fattening activities.
- The objective in a fattening operation is to convert as much of the feed to body tissue as possible. It is, thus, necessary to minimize the movement of animals during the fattening period. They should be allowed only limited exercise.
- The success of a finishing operation depends on the first two weeks after arrival of animals. They may have traveled long distances and will be stressed, hungry, and thirsty. They are generally gathered, sorted; often stand for a long time without feed and water. It is recommended that the following guidelines be followed under such circumstances:
- Rest the animals for a few hours in a dry, clean, sheltered area with access to fresh water after arrival. Then offer grass hay or mixed grass-legume hay.
- Hand feed salt during the first two weeks; then provide trace mineral salt in a separate feeder. Afterwards, these supplements can be mixed in the complete diet, but salt should continue to be provided ad libitum (free choice).
- Animals should have feed available at all times including evenings. If there is no feed left in the morning, feed supply should be increased for the following day.
- Adjust the animals to the fattening concentrate diet over a two week period by feeding the concentrate after the animals have consumed enough roughage to provide bulk. Gradually increase the intake of the concentrate every two days, while providing free access to the basal roughage diet.
- Sort the animals by weight/size/sex and feed in uniform weight/sex groups. Large animals tend to bully smaller animals and keep them away from feed troughs.
- Cull non-performing animals. Some animals do not adapt to intensive feeding irrespective of breed, sex or age. It is best to cull these animals as soon as possible. They can be identified by their poor performance in the initial stages of feeding.
- Feed for 90 to 120 days. The length of the feeding period depends upon the desired animal condition and the type of ration fed. What is desired for the export market may just be conditioning without the amount of fat desired by the local market. Thus, animals for export can be sold at a time when the desired condition is attained.
- Water should be available at all times. Inadequate water supply will affect their performance.
- The animals should have shelters that protect them from adverse environments. The shelter need not be expensive. Any building material will do, depending on availability and financing. The shelter can be constructed from locally available materials such as bamboo or mud with thatched roof. Space required is about 2 m2 per animal. Shelter should normally be open on one side. Walls up to 1.2 meters on the other three, with a gap of 0.5-0.8 meters between the walls and roof, to provide sufficient ventilation without draft. Muddy feedlots reduce feed efficiency drastically; it is thus necessary to keep the premises dry. Flooring should be included and elevated at least about 15 degrees to facilitate cleaning and drainage. Feeding racks (silage, water, mineral and concentrate) should be accessible to both goats and caretaker, preferably in the front of the aisle. A feeding space of 20 linear centimeters should be provided per animal.
- Socio-economic considerations: Sheep and goats for fattening need to be purchased when prices are low and sold at times of peak demand when prices are high. Feeds should also be purchased when prices are lowest and stored. These measures are important in increasing the profit margin of the fattening operation.