Sheep are ruminants meaning they eat forage, and ferment it in the rumen. A rumen requires a pH of around 6.5 for the bacteria to live which aid fermentation. This pH is maintained by the sheep creating a buffer by means of bicarbonate in the saliva while ruminating or chewing their cuds. Therefore chewing promotes rumen health. .
Whole grains (not milled or rolled) are large and require the sheep to chew, which produces saliva and aids the rumen pH. Barley has a high starch content, meaning that it can ferment quickly, which can lead to acidosis and bloat. Having whole grains slows the starch release to the gut and fermentation. Feeding whole grain also eliminates cost associated with bruising, rolling, etc.
Introduction of any concentrate feeding must be done gradually to avoid any upsets to the rumen, by starting with trough feeding and then stepping up to ad lib feeding. Ensure there is ample trough/hopper space for lambs to prevent overindulging. Ensure there is adequate protein added to any ration to meet animal requirements.
Kirsten Williams, email@example.com
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