Video: Feed Your Ruminants Right In Fall & Winter

Breeding season is in full swing, and your pastures are likely full of dead grass, too, so here's how to feed your ruminants in fall and winter.

We are in the middle of the breeding season for sheep and goats, and a shift is happening with their nutritive options and requirements. Summer is officially over and the grass that supplied your ruminants with feed is no longer their No. 1 option.

If you rotationally graze your animals and rely on grass, you can’t solely depend on that anymore. It is the time of the year for farmers to get involved and provide their ruminants with more feed options.

Check out the video above and read on for information on upcoming seasons and our recommendations for how to supplement nature’s options, which align with their pregnancy schedules. As always, check with your local vet for your herd to make sure this schedule works for you.

Early Fall

Early fall and pre-conception are times to flush feed ewes/does and rams/billies. There are articles and videos on Hobby Farms with specifics on how to do this. In short, though, this is the time to up protein through grain and feed.

The concept is to boost nutrition in effort to increase the likelihood of multiples and confirmed pregnancies. For the males, it gives them extra energy to cover the herd.

Read more: Flush feed your sheep to ensure breeding success.

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Late Fall/Winter

In late fall through winter, females have been bred and it is time to back off flushing and go to a maintenance schedule. This is not a time for the females to put on weight. Leaves are a healthy source of food that still offer a good amount of nutrition in the form of browse.

Late fall and winter is also a good time to start supplementing with hay as the grass dies back and no longer provides ruminants with a stable feed source.

Make sure you offer a good horse or prairie hay. You can offer this as a free choice or put it out daily. If you are going to offer daily, make sure you give at least one flaker per head per day. Since hay and leaves  are both dry food options, the herd will increase their water intake tremendously. Stay mindful of their water levels. 

Read more: Check out these sheep breeding security tips.


When your herd begins eating mainly dry food, it will be time to supplement. Supplementation options include feed blocks, lick tubs and loose minerals.

Sheep need feed blocks made specifically for sheep. These will have no copper and very low amounts of phosphorus. Copper is deadly for sheep, and too much phosphorus creates urinary calculi. 

Goat protein pails are tailored for them and will contain high levels of copper to help naturally worm them and keep parasites at bay. 

Both sheep and goats need free choice minerals. These are offered in blocks and loose in tubs. We recommend the loose tubs, as it is a safer and healthier option for their teeth. 

During late winter, as the females enter their third trimester, it is time to up their nutrition again. This trimester includes major fetus growth, as well as preparing their body for lactation.

These animals need more protein, but not fat. If the females are adding too much weight during this time, it will harm their deliveries and potentially throw their bodies into premature birth.

Keeping the same requirements as the maintenance schedule, it is time to add back grain in small amounts.

Properly feeding through the fall and winter requires intentionality and a careful eye. As the farmer, you must be aware of what nature is providing.

If leaves are not plentiful and the grass dies back faster than normal, you will need to supplement earlier and more frequently. It is all about balance and making sure your herd is well cared for. 

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