Sheep farming made easy

Part 8: Feed handling and distribution

With a few calculations, you can determine the size needed for your raw materials and mixing area.

Animal feed is very sensitive to contamination and can easily go off when care is not taken in the storing and mixing process. Insects, microbes, plant rests, but also crop chemicals, can cause livestock losses. Therefore, the feed processing area will have a significant influence on the choice of the sheep handling site.

We thank the ARC Institute for Agricultural Engineering in South Africa for making their manual on sheep production and facilities available to the readers of ProAgri Zambia.

Feed handling and distribution

Important points to consider for the placing and planning of the feed handling area include:

  • It must be close to the housing area to cut out unnecessary shifting of materials.
  • The facility must be planned in such a way that future expansion is possible.
  • Existing equipment and buildings can be used successfully.
  • Dust from die milling and mixing processes can be very annoying if prevailing wind directions are not considered when planning where to place the facility relative to the houses, work areas and animal housing facilities.
  • Other important considerations include the availability of water and electricity as well as existing and envisioned access routes.

The sophistication of the feed provisioning system will be determined by:

  • Size of the unit:
    As the unit expands, management becomes more difficult and the designer should consider a completely mechanised feed provisioning system.
  • Type of production system:
    The type of production system determines how grazing (natural or planted) is included in the feed provisioning programme. The more intensive the system, the larger the storage capacity of the system must be to provide the feeding requirements.
  • Availability and dependability of labour:
    The mechanisation level of the feed handling and provisioning system will increase as the risks concerning the labour source increase.
  • Managerial capabilities:
    The mechanisation level of the system must adapt to the capabilities and requirements of the user.
  • Costs:
    As the mechanisation level increases, the costs will increase, and the final design will mainly be determined by the financial resources and the intensity and expected profitability of the production system.
  • Equipment:
    Although the equipment component has a significant influence on the cost of the system and is also largely determined by the cost, the availability, maintenance and required technical capabilities will also have a determining influence on the choice of equipment.
Table 1: Required storage space for feed

Type of ration:

The type of rationing used, as well as the manageability thereof, will dictate the distribution methods. This way, a ration with a large coarse fodder component will be easily transported by feed trailers, while augers and conveyor belts can be used for the distribution of concentrates. The ration combination will also determine the method of storage and the storage space required.

Frequency of provision:

The use of self-feeder units will reduce the labour requirements for feed provision, but this can handicap the control over feed.

Feed storage space

The storage space will be determined by the number of different rations, the type of feed or ration combination and the period that the feed must be stored. Initial calculations can be done, using table 1. The required storage period can vary from place to place, between feed types and as the availability of feed changes. To obtain reasonably accurate calculated results, the specific ration combination must be known. The period for which each feed type must be stored, the amount and therefore the volume of storage space can then be determined accurately. See Table 2 for more details concerning mass densities. As an example, if five tonnes of threshed maize have to be stored, the required storage volume is 5 000 kg/720 kg = 6,94 m³ + 10% unforeseen = 7,6 m³.

Next month we shall look at storage methods for feed.

Published with acknowledgement to the ARC Institute for Agricultural Engineering for the use of their Sheep Facilities Manual. Visit for more information.

Table 2: Densities of typical feed materials. *Coarse refers to a hammer mill sieve size of 25 mm and fine to a sieve size of 1,6 mm.

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