But the sheep…well that is where I started. The sheep and goats are greedy creatures, always looking for the best food. This is a good thing if they are eating weeds and clovers and such out on the pasture, but in the pen, it means they pick through their hay and eat what they want, then cry for more. They leave behind the less palatable, but perfectly good hay and all the stems from the alfalfa. At 100 dollars a bale for second cut alfalfa, that is no acceptable. I have purchased slow feeder nets which replicate the way they have to eat in the pasture, picking out the small things, only they cannot stick their heads in and select. They can only eat what is available. That way, 95% of what they are given gets eaten which means less clean up for me. Also, the alfalfa and some forbes in the hay get into the wool of the sheep rendering it quite useless. The nets should keep the fleece clean without having to coat the sheep. One large net fits over a big round bale and the bale twines are removed after the net is on. It does not work for net wrapped bales though. For those, the netting and the first 2 feet of hay around the outside will have to be removed and the net carefully pulled over. It will be best to try to find twine wrapped bales, but every one is going to net wraps. I don't know why. The netting is terrible, hard to get off, hard to dispose of and dangerous to animals who ingest it or get caught in it.
The sheep and goats will eat the hay, but they have been given the alfalfa for the last two months of pregnancy and now as well for the first two months of lactating. Today I fed the sheep the hay, which smells like a meadow, is green and full of tasty things and weeds that they love and have lots of nutrition and minerals in them. They began to eat the hay and still cried for feed. I know why. Alfalfa is addictive, as addictive as grain. They want nothing more and given as much alfalfa as they want, they would eat themselves sick and possibly to the death, just as they do on grain. I don't know if alfalfa is absolutely necessary. It does have more protein and calcium in it, but it makes such a mess and gets in the fleece and all over me or any other critter near by. Still, the sheep left the hay feeder and ran like greedy pigs to the alfalfa feeder and literally sucked the fine leaves down, leaving the stems and then began to cry for more. The same happened with the goats.
After they eat the alfalfa, they will slowly munch on the hay, and if they have no choice, they will eat some of the alfalfa stems and the coarser hay. The advantage of the hay nets is they cannot pick and choose and will have to take the stems with the leaves, rather than selecting the leaves only. Way better! Way cleaner, because they don't get huge mouths full and drop half which then is wasted and hardly any clean up later. It took me hours to clean the pen and it had been done in January during a warm spell we had. There is a mountain of hay with a little manure in it too, but mostly hay, wasted and spoiled. I am so pleased to have found a solution and I am praying it is what it is said to be.
In the meantime, I still have to deal with those greedy addicted sheep and the wayward goats. Life on the farm is never dull, I'll say that for sure. Wouldn't you agree?