The use of blocks as a convenient, waste-free method of mineral and/or protein supplementation has long been popular in the sheep industry. Blocks come in several different forms: pressed, poured and low-moisture (also known as cooked). These forms differ in hardness, size, consumption rates, nutrient content and intended use. It is important to choose the right block supplement to meet both your management needs and the nutritional needs of your sheep.
The success of nutritional programs utilizing supplement blocks largely depends on proper block management. Simply placing blocks in the pasture does not necessarily ensure that your sheep are receiving the adequate nutrients. Below is a list of helpful tips for proper block management.
- Provide the recommended number of blocks (as indicated in the product label’s feeding directions) for the number of animals exposed (i.e., at 1 block for every 10 heads, 50 sheep will need 5 blocks). This will give all of your animals — even the timid ones — equal access to blocks. For the same reason, allow for at least 10 feet of space between blocks.
- Place the blocks where your animals congregate. Locate blocks throughout the pasture, placing them near (i.e., within at least 50 feet of) watering, feeding and loafing areas. Note that these areas may change throughout the year.
- Remove all other sources of salt and minerals unless the product label directions suggest otherwise. If the animals do not consume the blocks at the recommended levels, they will not receive the nutrients necessary for maximum performance.
- Determine the rate of block consumption per head per day after a period of acclimation (1 to 2 weeks). This can be determined by multiplying the number of blocks consumed in one month by the weight of the blocks (i.e., 5 blocks at 40 lbs. each = 200 lbs.). To determine the consumption per day, divide this figure by the number of days in the month (i.e., 200 lbs. ÷ 30 days = 6.7 lbs./day). To determine consumption per head per day, divide this figure by the number of sheep exposed to the blocks (i.e., 6.7 lbs./day ÷ 100 sheep = 0.067 lbs./head/day). This number can be converted into ounces by multiplying it by 16 (0.067 lbs./head/day x 16 oz./lb. = 1.1 oz/hd/day).
- Compare the actual consumption rate with the suggested consumption rate on the product label. Regulate consumption accordingly through block placement; locate the blocks closer to congregation areas to increase consumption, or place them further away to decrease consumption.
- If sheep are not eating enough of the supplement, locate the blocks nearer to their congregation areas. For example, place the blocks in shady areas where sheep lounge during the day or throughout the grazing paddocks to reduce the distance they must travel to reach the blocks.
- If over-consumption lasts for more than two weeks, locate the blocks further away from congregation areas. If repositioning the blocks does not rectify the situation, remove the blocks and re-evaluate your overall feeding program.
- Do not allow animals to run out of blocks. When a block is half-consumed, place a new block near it. To avoid waste, place small pieces in a trough or feed pan.
- During inclement weather or muddy conditions, placing blocks in bunks or containers is recommended to maintain proper consumption levels.
- Use the appropriate block supplement for the diet conditions. When forage or feed quality is high, a mineral and vitamin supplement will be adequate. When forage quality is poor, or if additional protein is required, supplement with blocks containing higher amounts of protein in addition to minerals and vitamins.
These are just a few simple tips for the proper management of block supplements. For more information about SWEETLIX® supplements, contact your local SWEETLIX® dealer or call 1-87-SWEETLIX to speak with a SWEETLIX nutritionist.