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Dry licks and urea supplementation for sheep

Dry licks are a practical way to provide nitrogen (e.g. urea) to sheep when they are protein deficient. They stimulate the sheep's appetite which can increase their intake of pasture by 20-30%; therefore, urea supplementation is only useful when sheep have access to a good body of dry feed. The increase in pasture intake can result in increased wool growth, and reduce the rate of weight loss and death rates.

Dry licks can be used to supplement major nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur.  Attention is required to ensure that the sheep receive enough of the nutrient that is deficient in the diet.

Thorough mixing of the dry lick is required, preferably using a mechanical mixer. The dry lick should be available at all times, and fed in open-ended troughs, hollow logs or drums that have good drainage to allow rainfall to run off.

Urea toxicity

Most dry licks contain urea. To avoid urea toxicity or death, an introductory period is required in which only salt is fed. Providing only salt until the sheep satisfy their craving will prevent them from gorging supplements when they are first put out. Signs of urea toxicity include abdominal pain, muscle tremors, incoordination, weakness, laboured breathing and bloat. It is not recommended to feed rams urea, as it's not worth the risk of toxicity.

Dry lick recipes

Recipe 1: a cost-effective alternative to commercial prepared licks

IngredientsProportion*Comments
Gran Am
Kynofos
Coarse salt
2
2
4
For sheep and cattle on mulga. Urea can be added to this lick at 1 part.
Gran Am
Kynofos
Coarse salt
Protein meal
1
1
2
3-5
For lactating ewes and cows in poor condition and early weaned calves on mulga

*Parts by weight

Recipe 2: for sheep on mulga

Ingredients Proportion in dry lick (parts by weight)
 Kynofos mixBiofos mixDCP mix
Stock salt 2 2 2
Sulphate of  Ammonia 1 1 1
Kynofos 1 - -
Biofos - 1 -
DCP - - 1

Adding urea and molasses to dry licks

If plenty of dry grass is available, urea can be added to dry licks to increase the nitrogen content. The table below shows the recommended percentages for adding urea and molasses to a dry lick.

Recipe 3: adding urea and molasses to lick

Ingredient Composition (%)
Stock salt 40
Sulphate of Ammonia 20
Kynofos, Biofos or dicalcium phosphate 20
Urea 10
Molasses 10

Recipe 4: for lambing ewes or sheep in poor condition

For lambing ewes and sheep in very poor condition, protein meal should be added to the lick.

A suitable mix would be:

  • 2 parts stock salt
  • 1 part sulphate of ammonia
  • 1 part Kynofos 21, Biofos or dicalcium phosphate
  • up to 6 parts protein meal.

This dry lick will be more palatable, especially if vegetable protein meals are used, and consumption rates will increase.

Recipe 5: turning a dry lick into a block

Ingredients Order of mixing Units of mix %
5% urea 10% urea 15% urea
Hot water 1 10 10 10
Molasses 2 20 20 20
Urea 3 5 10 15
Salt 4 15 10 10
Bran 5 15 15 10
Sulphate of Ammonia (Gran Am®) 6 5 5 5
Bentonite 7 30 30 30

Note: this mix should be dried in the sun for 7 days.

An optimum size block is about 6-8kg.

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