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FEEDING AND NUTRITION FOR SHOW WETHERS

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “magic” ration that will make your show wether a champion. To implement a good feeding program, study the wether and use all available information to make judgments on when feed changes should be made.

Since most wethers do not deposit external fat as rapidly as other types of livestock, a self-feeding program can be effective. However, some wethers will become too fat during the feeding period and should be hand fed twice to three times daily to control the amount of feed consumed.

All livestock require five basic nutrients: water, protein, fats and carbohydrates (or energy), minerals and vitamins.

Water

Clean, fresh water is a daily necessity because water composes more than 70 percent of lean tissue and all body fluids must be replenished regularly. Never deprive your wether of water due to water regulates the amount of feed a wether will consume. Reduced water intake however, at certain periods during the program, can reduce feed intake and reduce the size of the rumen for improved appearance.

Protein

The primary constituent of the animal body is protein. Dietary protein serves to maintain or replace protein in body tissues, provides for carriers of other nutrients and is a major component of various products such as meat, milk and fiber. Protein requirements for wethers vary according to their size, age and maturity. Young, fast-growing wethers need higher protein diets to allow them to grow and develop their muscle potential. Rations that contain 16 to 18 percent protein are useful during many phases of the feeding program. Remember that wethers have a daily requirement for protein. If more protein is fed than is required, the excess is used for energy. Using protein as an energy source is very expensive. When total feed intake is greatly reduced, protein supplementation may be necessary in order to provide the adequate daily requirements for your wether.

Carbohydrates and Fats

The most common limiting nutrients in wether rations are energy-producing carbohydrates and fats. Inadequate energy intake will result in slow growth and weight loss. An adequate supply of energy is necessary for efficient nutrient utilization. Grains and protein supplements are high in energy. However, in wether rations, too much energy intake can be just as detrimental as not enough.

Minerals

The minerals of major concern in wether rations are salt (sodium and chlorine), calcium and phosphorus. Salt can be fed free choice. However, many rations contain 1/2 to 1 percent salt. Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for proper growth and development, and should be fed at a ratio 2:1 (two parts of calcium to one part phosphorus).

Rations that contain high levels of phosphorus in relation to calcium may cause urinary calculi. The addition of ammonium chloride at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per ton of feed will help prevent urinary calculi. Roughages are generally high in calcium and low in phosphorus. Grains are generally low in calcium and intermediate in phosphorus. Most protein supplements are high in phosphorus and intermediate in calcium. A mineral supplement with a 25 to 30 percent protein content can be of benefit in a feeding program when used to top dress the ration. Supplements must be used in the proper amounts because excesses will deplete the muscle mass of the wether.

Vitamins

Vitamins are essential for proper body function and are required by wethers in very small amounts. Only vitamin A is ever likely to be deficient. Wethers that are fed alfalfa hay or dehydrated alfalfa pellets in their ration should not have a vitamin A deficiency problem. It is a good practice to occasionally inoculate goats with a B complex vitamin. Vitamin B complex will help to promote their health and helps them eat well.

Management and Feeding

At the time of purchase, ask the seller if the kids have been being creep fed and with what type or brand of feed. Many reputable wether producers will be more than happy to supply this information and some even give a bag of feed with the purchase of a wether.

Some kids though, will not know how to eat pelleted feed from a trough. These wethers should be started on good, leafy alfalfa hay that is top dressed with a preconditioning pellet. After 3 or 4 days, the selected ration may be introduced slowly. Hay can be fed during the first part of the feeding program, but should be eliminated at the later stages to prevent wethers from developing large stomachs.

You have a choice of feeding a commercially prepared ration, mixing your own, or feeding a county ration that has been mixed and is sold by the local feed store. Wethers are picky eaters, therefore, a pelleted ration is recommended over a textured or loose ration. Select a balanced ration such as West Feeds Terminator, Sure Fed N-Timidator or Mormons Fast Forward, learn how to feed it and learn how your wether responds to it.

Most wethers can be self-fed for the entire feeding period. However, some wethers will become fat and need to be hand fed. Fat deposition must be monitored throughout the feeding program. You can monitor the amount of fat by feeling behind the front leg on the rib region. When pressing your fingers along this area you should be able to put light pressure and just be able to feel the ribs, if you have to press with more than a light pressure then there is too much fat and if you can feel the ribs with little to no pressure then there is not enough fat.

Rations not producing enough finish can be bolstered by the addition of a high-energy feed, such as corn, or a pelleted fat such as Mormon’s Fast Fat, during the late stages of the feeding program. Remember, never make abrupt changes in your feeding program. Make gradual changes so your wether will stay on feed and continue to develop. The feeding program will dictate how your wether develops and matures.

A good program cannot make up for a lack of superior genetics, but it will allow your wether to reach its genetic potential. Feeding is a daily responsibility and the program should be changed as needed to maximize your results. To best monitor your results, weigh your wether on a regular basis.

Know whether your wether is gaining or losing weight and know how much weight. Exercise can be very beneficial to your wether and to your success in the show ring. Wethers are very active animals and, if given enough room, they will exercise themselves. Have objects like big rocks or wooden spools in your pen for climbing and jumping. This will provide your wether with an excellent opportunity to exercise itself. A wether that exercises will handle harder and firmer, and will give you an advantage in the show ring.


WEB PAGE DESIGNED BY ANGELS ACRES

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Updated 09/12/2009

The above information has exerpts from the following:

Texas Agricultural Extension Service & Agricultural Communications, The Texas A&M University System

Disclaimer: Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied.