Great Britain

Think about ewe nutrition to safeguard lamb performance

With lambing now fast approaching for many, it is important to focus on the ewe and her developing lambs to try and maximise your returns and avoid unwanted losses.

The ewe must be managed carefully in the run up to lambing to ensure good placental growth, quality colostrum and milk production.

With the challenging market we have all experienced in the last 12 months, it is always tempting to try and cut a few corners to save a few pounds. Whilst everyone needs to look at costs, it is important to ensure ewes are still provided with the correct nutrition.

Increased demands

The nutritional requirement of the ewe increases vastly in the last eight weeks of pregnancy. This is when ewes should receive quality forages and supplements.

Assess the ewe’s condition at scanning and identify any thin animals which require preferential treatment. They then have time to gain condition before lambing.

Making sure ewes are in good condition and have the correct nutrition ahead of lambing will improve the chance of lamb survival by helping to achieve:

It is important to deliver the correct nutritional balance in the last month. This is not only for the ewe and unborn lamb, but also for mammary gland development. Under nutrition not only reduces colostrum quality, but also delays the onset of lactation.

Colostrum is number one

Antibodies do not cross the placenta, so the newborn lamb is reliant on antibody-rich colostrum. It is important that lambs receive 50ml/kg in the first four to six hours of birth and 200ml/kg within the first 24 hours. That means a 5kg lamb requires 1 litre. It is also important to remember that a young lamb’s feed conversation ratio is 1:1 - so for every 1kg of dry milk they drink, they gain 1kg. That means it’s the cheapest growth an animal will achieve in its whole lifetime.

Ewe energy and protein requirements

In the approach to lambing, it’s important to think about the energy and protein requirements of the ewe.

The energy requirement for a twin bearing, 70kg ewe goes from 11.4ME at six weeks pre-lambing to 18.3ME at lambing. However, the amount which they can consume in dry matter decreases due to the space taken up by the growing lambs. This means the energy density of the diet needs to increase.

It is important to choose a ration with the correct protein and energy, and good DUP (Digestible Undegradable Protein) levels. You must also not forget ERDP (Effective Rumen Degradable Protein) in late pregnancy. This is required for healthy rumen turnover and cannot simply be replaced with DUP, which bypasses the rumen for absorption in the intestines.

Once a ewe has lambed, her energy requirement goes to over 30ME. This means it’s important to continue supplementing the ewe with concentrates post lambing, unless they are going onto good spring pasture with a sward height of over 4cm.

At Mole Valley Farmers we offer a range of 18% protein ewe rations and a few 20% protein rations. All our rations have fixed formulation, so the ingredients do not change through the season, which is very important as sheep can be very fussy. They also have higher levels of Vitamin E and selenium.

Test your forages!

Forage generally forms the largest part of the ewe’s diet so it’s well worth getting it tested to accurately determine what you’re feeding.

Once forage quality is understood, ewe diets can be designed accordingly. This may lead to a cost saving, as good quality forage will allow concentrate feeding to be reduced.

The Mole Valley Farmers team can sample your forages and design a suitable complementary diet.

Think about creep feeding lambs

Offering creep feed to lambs from 7 – 10 days, can help optimise lamb performance by enhancing daily live weight gain and encouraging rumen development.

If continued this can help with lamb classification grades and killing out percentages and get lambs away earlier to market. Creep feeding can also take pressure off the ewes and help reduce mastitis cases.

We offer two 18% creep rations. Both have ammonium chloride to minimise urinary calculi. Our Multi Lamb creep pellet is one of the top creep rations available and is ideal for ad-lib feeding from start to finish. Our Rapid Lamb is also an excellent traditional creep ration. All our lamb rations contain yeast.

For more information regarding ewe nutrition, please contact your local Mole Country Store or call 01325 504666.

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