Stall feeding, also known as zero grazing, is an innovative practice in animal husbandry that involves confining goats and sheep in a controlled environment rather than allowing them to roam freely for grazing.
This method has gained popularity among farmers due to its numerous benefits, including improved nutrition, enhanced productivity, and better animal welfare.
In this blog post, we will explore the advantages and considerations of stall feeding for goats and sheep, as well as some key practices to ensure successful implementation.
What is stall feeding?
The main focus of stall feeding is to teach livestock to get used to staying in one place without being fed right away. Once they learn how to eat in this confined area, the process becomes easier. To start, all you will need is a box filled with clean hay, a couple of bales of hay, and 10-20 feet of fencing for each animal.
Once you have that setup, all you have to do is stand outside their pen and toss them a handful of grain or some fruits and vegetables. The animals then learn to wait for food inside the enclosure.
Making the stall feeding system?
For stall feeding livestock, you will need a pen for the animals, a gate to close the pen, and several bales of hay. The process is simple, one person loads the bales of hay and then places them against the fence while another closes the gate.
This is important because it keeps them inside and makes it easier to catch the animal when feeding time comes. Once they learn that they can get food by standing in one area, they will often choose to stay in this spot until you feed them.
How does stall feeding work?
The concept of stall feeding is quite simple. With meticulous planning and a bit of trial and error, it’s possible to build your stall-fencing system in just an hour or so.
However, it’s important to note that you will need to weigh the animals every couple of days and record their weight gains and losses so they can be adjusted appropriately.
Place selection in the farm for stall feeding
when you are selecting a place for stall feeding should consider the following points:
- The floor of the room should be dry because animals need to stand in the hay, not on the wet or muddy ground;
- A bright, clean, and well-ventilated environment is important for livestock that is kept indoors for an extended period;
- Whenever possible, choose a room where there is an easy-to-clean floor surface such as concrete or tiles (as opposed to grass).
- A floor drainage system is also recommended to remove moisture from the ground and keep the area dry at all times.
- The distance between animals should be at least 2 meters
- The room should have doors and windows that can be opened and closed to promote air circulation;
- A slatted floor or a floor that allows urine to drain away is better than a solid surface with concrete or wood, which is difficult to clean.
Benefits of Stall Feeding
Nutrition and Feed Management: One of the primary advantages of stall feeding is the ability to provide controlled and balanced nutrition to goats and sheep. By confining the animals, farmers can regulate their diet and ensure they receive the right amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
This leads to improved growth rates, better weight gain, and overall enhanced health. It also allows for easy supplementation of concentrates, roughage, and other feed sources, leading to optimal feed utilization.
Disease Control: Stall feeding plays a significant role in preventing the spread of diseases among goats and sheep. When animals are confined to a specific area, it becomes easier to monitor their health and detect any signs of illness promptly.
Moreover, it reduces their exposure to external pathogens, parasites, and toxic plants, which are commonly found in open grazing areas. As a result, the overall disease incidence is minimized, leading to healthier livestock and reduced veterinary costs.
Productivity and Reproduction: Stall feeding positively impacts the productivity and reproductive efficiency of goats and sheep. Since farmers have better control over their nutrition, they can optimize the animals’ body condition, leading to improved fertility rates.
Moreover, the practice allows for selective breeding, making it easier to manage mating cycles and monitor breeding outcomes. Additionally, stall-fed animals tend to have higher milk yields in the case of dairy goats and sheep.
Environmental Sustainability: Stall feeding can contribute to better land management and environmental sustainability. By confining the animals to a specific area, farmers can prevent overgrazing and soil erosion.
They can also implement manure management strategies, such as collecting and composting the waste, thereby converting it into valuable organic fertilizer. Proper waste management reduces the environmental impact of animal farming and promotes sustainable agriculture.
Considerations for Successful Stall Feeding
Infrastructure and Space: To implement stall feeding effectively, farmers need appropriate infrastructure and adequate space for housing the animals. The stalls should be well-ventilated, spacious enough to allow the animals to move comfortably, and designed to ensure proper drainage. Additionally, separate spaces should be provided for feeding, watering, and resting.
Feed Management: Ensuring a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for the success of stall feeding. Farmers should consult with livestock nutritionists or veterinarians to develop a feeding plan that meets the specific requirements of goats and sheep.
The diet should include a combination of concentrates, roughage, and mineral supplements. Regular monitoring of feed quality, proper storage, and timely feed distribution are essential practices to prevent wastage and maintain animal health.
Hygiene and Health Management: Maintaining proper hygiene is vital when practicing stall feeding. Regular cleaning of the stalls, removing accumulated waste, and providing clean drinking water are crucial for preventing diseases. Routine vaccinations, deworming, and regular health check-ups should also be part of the management plan to ensure the well-being of the animals.
Exercise and Socialization: Although stall feeding restricts the animals’ movement, it is important to provide them with opportunities for exercise and socialization. Encouraging regular physical activity and providing suitable toys or objects for play can help alleviate stress and promote healthy behavior.
Disadvantages of stall feeding
Stall feeding is not perfect and it has some disadvantages as well. Here are the disadvantages of stall feeding:
- The animal will get used to the stall and may not want to go back to the pen;
- It can be dangerous for small animals because they need supervision 24/7;
- Labor-intensive cleaning is required for hay or other material on the floor;
- Stall feeding does not separate sick animals from others or encourage them to stay away from each other.
- If a goat or sheep is being milked in the stall and it needs to lie down, it will be difficult for her because the pen is too small to lie down comfortably.
- It can be expensive because you will need to buy more hay than you would with traditional pens.
- Stalls may not be ideal for animals raised outdoors during the day and brought inside at night;
- Stall feeding does not encourage socialization between animals;
Breed for stall feeding of goats
It’s very important to find the right breed for stall feeding. Here are some useful breeds that can be used for stall feeding:
- Saanen breed – they are a cross
of Swiss and Toggenburg, which produces a smooth-haired, medium-sized goat;
- Rambouillet breed – they are a
cross of French Saanen and Spanish La Mancha Nubilla, producing an animal with
- La Mancha breed – they are a
cross of Spanish and French breeds, producing a large-sized goat with high milk
- Fainting goats – these are
herding animals so they’re unlikely to need special care.
- La Mancha goats – these are
excellent milking animals. The La Mancha goat is known as the French goat of
the Andes, which means it’s adapted to cold conditions and high altitudes in
the Andes Mountains of Peru, Chile, and Argentina.
- Besides the more goat
breed for stall feeding are Boer, Black Bengal, Sirohi, Frisian,
Spanish, Kiko, Pygmy, etc.
Breed for stall feeding of sheep
Goats can be used for stall feeding but sheep can be used too. Here are some useful breeds that can be used for stall feeding:
Suffolks – they are a muscular breed known for their heavy wool coat;
Merinos – they are a long-haired breed with fine wool, which makes for excellent quality lamb wool;
Bergamaschi – these sheep have medium-length, fine wool and produce a lot of wool. These breeds are used for mohair, which is used in making clothes and bags.
Leicesters – these sheep tend to be wiry and grow coarse wool which is used for yarn and the meat of these animals is also good for making sausages;
Leicester Longwool – these sheep have long wool and produce a lot of wool. These breeds are used for fleece and the meat of these animals is also used for making sausages.
Colonial Spanish Sheep – they are a cross between Spanish and English breeds;
Stall feeding offers a range of benefits for goats and sheep, including improved nutrition, disease control, increased productivity, and environmental sustainability. By implementing proper infrastructure, feed management, and health practices, farmers can successfully adopt this method and maximize the potential of their livestock.
However, it is crucial to strike a balance between confinement and the animals’ need for exercise and socialization. With careful planning and management, stall feeding can be a valuable technique for modern animal husbandry, ensuring the well-being and productivity of goats and sheep.