creep feed
An example of a self-feeder for creep feed. The vertical bars are spaced 110mm apart and are 250mm high. The ewes cannot push their heads through the openings, although they might be able to reach the creep feed with their tongues. These feeders are manufactured by Andrew Jordaan of Cradock.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The difference between creep feed for lambs and kids is substantial, says Dewald Vosloo, nutrition consultant and managing director of Saamstaan Voere in Vrede. This distinction is mainly due to the differences in the rumen of sheep and goats. However, other fundamental differences exist that contribute to their respective creep feed requirements.

Feeding habits differ

“Firstly, we need to look at the different feeding habits of goats and sheep. Sheep graze downwards from where their gaze rests, whereas goats graze from eye level upwards. It is the reason for goats’ sensitivity to internal parasites when they are left to graze short grassland. There are virtually no parasites at their natural feeding height. Sheep, on the other hand, are adapted to short grass and therefore are more accustomed to parasitic exposure.”

Sheep were developed in Europe and, through years of adaption, can make excellent use of small grains. Goats, on the other hand, originated in the northern parts of Africa and Asia, where they evolved to make excellent use of fibrous plants. Goats are therefore well equipped to digest fibre, while sheep do the same with grain.

“Because goats are grain sensitive you cannot include warm grain pellets in your creep feed ration as you do with sheep. Lambs are excellent utilisers of creep feed pellets, which contain almost no fibre. Kids need a creep feed pellet that is high in fibre to stimulate optimal rumen development, without high grain levels burning the rumen. This is the main difference between creep feed diets for lambs and kids.”

Creep feed management system

There is also a distinct difference between the management systems for goats and sheep where creep feed is concerned, says Dewald. “Producers often send their goat ewes to the veld alone during the day while the kids remain in the pens. The ewes return in the evenings at which time the kids will then suckle. This is because goat ewes can apparently only count to one! Although she has multiple kids, she is completely content to return home with only one while abandoning the others in the veld.

“Kids must receive creep feed throughout the day. Fortunately, they start eating creep feed from as early as seven days old. Because they need to ingest enough high-grade fibre, good quality lucerne will serve as an excellent and palatable source of fibre. It will increase intake while satisfying the fibre requirement and stimulating rumen development.”

Using lucerne as the basis, says Dewald, he will also look at creep feed containing a source of quality bypass protein, such as soya or cottonseed oilcake. “A kid’s rumen is not yet fully developed, and this type of protein source is therefore digested further along the intestinal tract. My ration will include a grain component, albeit no more than 40% and never small grains.

“A kid is extremely sensitive to coccidiosis, which means a coccidiostat is essential in the ration. Resistance to coccidiostats remains a problem and a variety of coccidiostats should therefore be used, if necessary.

“Urea is another issue that needs addressing. Because the rumens of lambs and kids are still underdeveloped, they cannot utilise urea. Adding urea to creep feed is therefore unnecessary. It can also lead to poisoning if the young consume too much.”

Vitamins and minerals

The digestive process of the rumen microbes supplies ruminants with the vitamin B they need, says Dewald. Their underdeveloped rumens mean that lambs and kids need a different source of vitamin B, which is supplemented by the creep feed.

Trace minerals are equally important. Zinc, selenium, cobalt, iodine and manganese are the big five that have to be supplemented. Goats and sheep are very susceptible to copper poisoning, so it should only be supplemented if the area is prone to a specific deficiency.

Bladder stones

Both young goat and sheep rams are highly susceptible to bladder stones in regions with water containing high levels of lime. Small stones can even start forming in suckling lambs or kids.

“The problem is that bladder stones can form early and then lie dormant, until the animal experiences stress – either in the feedlot or during stud ram finishing. The stones will grow and since there’s no remedy, the only option is to slaughter the animal. It is therefore best to include ammonium chloride in the creep feed mixture.”

The value of creep feed

Is creep feed worth it? To show how effective creep feed is, Dewald has some growth guidelines. “There is no reason why a healthy lamb from a good mother should not grow 250g/day. Given the right genetics and conditions, lambs can grow as much as 400g/day. This applies to both meat goats and sheep. The picture for Angora goats looks different, though.”

As for the amount of creep feed per lamb, Dewald also has a guideline. A Merino lamb weaned at ten weeks consumes around 25kg of creep feed until weaning. A Dohne Merino lamb, in turn, uses approximately 30kg, while a large breed such as a Dormer, SA Mutton Merino or Ile de France consumes roughly 35kg. As for goats, an Angora kid consumes around 10kg and a Boer goat kid around 25kg.”

Self-feeders and creep pens

In an extensive system where creep feed is put close to water points, self-feeders are probably the most practical way of feeding. In a more intensive system where you can observe the lambs or kids every day, open troughs are better.

The only requirement is to protect creep feed from direct sunlight. The intake by lambs or kids will drop if pellets are left to bake in the sun. Creep feed should preferably be as fresh as possible.

As kids usually stay behind in the kraal while their mothers go out to graze, creep pens are unnecessary. “Keep in mind, though, that a goat ewe has the incredible ability to crawl through seemingly impossible spaces. So, make sure that ewes do not sneak in from the veld to snack on the creep feed.”

creep feed
This tubular creep feeder, with openings just large enough for a lamb to push its head through, is commonly used. For horned animals, notches can be cut on either side of the openings.

Tubular creep feed troughs with openings just large enough for the lamb to push its head through are very popular among sheep producers. Unfortunately, horned animals can easily get stuck in the openings. “One solution is to cut notches on either side of the openings for the animal to slip its horns through.”

The traditional creep gate is probably a better solution for goats, but the fence of the pen must be higher than for sheep, as goats are very adept at jumping over low fences. Outsmarting a goat ewe, says Dewald, is a full-time job!

The size of the creep gate opening is also essential. There is no point to the whole endeavour if your lambs or kids cannot get through the opening. It might be better to wean them early so that they have free access to the creep ration, rather than losing the growth you gained with the creep feed.

“The other important aspect is to not stop giving the creep ration too early. Feeding should continue for at least two weeks post-weaning, before gradually switching to a growth ration.”

Pellets or meal?

If you thought sheep are picky eaters, then goats will surprise you, warns Dewald. “If your creep feed is in meal form kids will simply pick out the palatable bits, such as the lucerne and grain, and leave behind the important elements such as the trace minerals and coccidiostats. Creep pellets are a better option as it is guaranteed to contain the full balanced ration.”

Dewald conducted experiments to compare the effectiveness of creep feed meal and pellets. Better growth of between 50 and 100g/day was obtained with the pellets.

The waste element of pellets is also smaller. Wastage is virtually zero if pellets are provided in a self-feeder that prohibits selective feeding, while the saliva covering the remaining meal at the bottom of a trough makes it very unattractive for the young.

Creep feed for Angoras

Angora kids respond very well to creep feed. Besides growth, young ewes will be productive throughout their lifetime and will produce good quality fibre.

Read more about creep feed for calves.

In Angora goats, the principle of compensatory growth does not apply as with other animals. If a kid is stunted early in life, the deficit lasts forever. The first six weeks after birth is crucial for Angora kids. – Izak Hofmeyr, Stockfarm

For more information, contact Dewald Vosloo on 083 564 5105.

lambs, kids