Observations on the performance of sheep using lick feeders Danny Roberts Veterinary Officer

Observations on the performance of
sheep using lick feeders
Danny Roberts
Veterinary Officer
Department of Agriculture and Food
Albany, Western Australia
What are lick feeders?
 Restrictive feeding delivery device
 It requires sheep to actively ‘lick’ feed from restricted areas within
the feeder
 The design results in less wastage from either spillage or spoilage
compared with 18-24% loss with other types of self feeders
44% of surveyed sheep producers
have a lick feeder
Lick feeders were present on
significantly more flocks with low
labour ranking (66%) compared
with high labour ranking (34%)
Average of 3285 sheep per producer
Enterprise type
Other devises used by low labour
use ranked producers include: sheep
handlers, crutching cradles,
electronic weigh crates
Sheep CRC producer survey 2011 –
1000 respondents by phone
Wool and
prime lamb
Prime lamb
Benefits and costs of using lick feeders
 Significant reduction in labour and time required to feed sheep
during summer, autumn and early winter
 Reduction in wastage of supplement – reduce wastage by 12%
= 8T @ $225/T - take 8 years for feeder paid for by savings on
wastage alone
 Supplement available 24/7
 Increased variation of intake of a supplement with lick (CV
78%) feeders compared with on-ground trail feeding (CV 47%)
Do lick feeders deliver – case 1
 One lick feeder should deliver the supplement to 200 sheep without social factors inhibiting
intake – ~2.5 cm of trough space per sheep
 385 merino wethers (9 months) with access to lick feeders on the original property
 Placed in a 12.5 hectare paddock that contained two Advantage lick feeders
 Two lick feeders were placed as far away from the water trough as possible
 The two lick feeders were separated across the paddock.
 The dry pasture residue in the paddock was eaten or tramped within one week
 Sheep consumed lick pellets and had access to oaten hay
 Aim was to restrict the intake of lick pellets and allow a gradual increase before ad-lib
feeding in a feedlot pen
Performance of sheep in a confinement paddock
 Estimated intake of 800-900 grams per head per day of pellets
when the feeders were ‘set’ at 350 grams per head per day
 The rate of introduction of the pellets was more rapid than the
recommended program of daily feeding using feed carts
Performance of sheep in a feedlot pen
 The sheep were transferred to a feedlot pen – with
unrestricted access to lick feeders - one lick feeder per 110
sheep – providing 4 cm trough space per head
 Had access to oaten hay and green kikuyu
 Consumed 500 grams per head per day
 The presence of kikuyu in the feedlot pen appeared to alter
lick feeding behaviour by reducing intake of the pellets
Sheep behaving badly
 Sheep consumed varying amounts of pellets from the two
different lick feeders in the same paddock
 Sheep appear to quickly identity which side of the lick feeders
were partially blocked and actively avoided these sides of the
 Feeders required monitoring every second day to avoid partial
blockages in the first 14 days
 Checking could safely move to every 5-7 days once the blockages
were overcome
Do lick feeders deliver - case 2
 155 pregnant merino ewes (3-4 years old) had access to one lick feeders located in the
feedlot paddock as well as access to dry pasture residues.
 The lick feeder is set to provide 250 g/head/day of lupins.
 The estimated average intake of lupin seed is 333 g/head/day after 12 days of access to a
lick feeder.
 However, daily intake can vary from as little as 8 g/head/day when the feeder almost empty
to 847 g/head/day immediately after a refill.
 In the first 7 days following the introduction of sheep to the lick feeder - they remained
mostly in the feedlot area that contains the lick feeder.
 They are now spending more time grazing the dry pastures in the annual farmlet.
Health issues associated with lick feeders
 Enterotoxaemia in unvaccinated sheep
 Clinical rumen acidosis
 Pregnancy toxaemia in ewes
 Salmonellosis
 Black Mastitis in ewes
 A noticeable proportion of sheep considered as ‘poor doers’ within a mob
Monitoring sheep on lick feeders
 How do you detect abnormal feeding behaviour or unhealthy
sheep when they just stand around the feeder and
 Sheep spend a relatively short time eating supplements
 Low faecal consistency score and 50% or more chewing their cud
 The ability of producers to detect abnormal feeding behaviour
decreases as the size of the mob increases
Observations from sheep producers
 Report a large variation in amount eaten between different mobs
and performance of individual sheep within a mob
 Average intake of supplement is greater than anticipated when a
low amount of dry FOO was present in the paddock
 Perform least effectively as a restrictive feeding delivery method
with low amounts of dry pasture present
 Perform most effective as a restrictive feeding delivery method
when sheep are grazing green pasture
Others problems ….
 Don’t do a feed budget – know the CS of sheep at the start and 2 or 4 or
6 weeks time in order to determine the correct amount of supplement
 Often have more than 200 sheep per lick feeder
 Experience problems with blockage of one side of feeder
 Tend to refill the feeder on set days as part of their labour and time
saving strategy
 Condition score the sheep – ‘let the sheep do the talking’
Train the sheep
 Lambs recognize grain and feeders if trained with mum
 Train sheep well before they need to go onto lick feeders
 Sheep must get a reward of grain on first visit to a feeder
 Train sheep using a safe supplement like lupin seed
 Have lupin seed in drip tray and overflowing from lick
 Lick feeders can restricted the access of pellets but not as
much as anticipated
 Sheep can modifying intake of lick pellets independently of
the design of the feeder
 Lick feeders are most effective as a restrictive feeding
delivery method when sheep are grazing green pasture
 Many claims about lick feeders still need verification
Alternative to lick feeders – spread
lupin seed across the paddock