Optimum ewe nutrition in late pregnancy

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With lambing season not far around the corner it is now time to take stock of the nutritional requirements of the pregnant ewe.

Getting the nutritional management correct now will reap returns when lambs are on the ground.

At this stage of the season ewes should now be housed pre-lambing and scanning undertaken to determine lamb numbers. Batching ewes according to litter size is critical to ensure target feeding to requirements. This also allows for single bearing ewes not to be over fed as well as reducing problems post lambing.

Ideally ewe lambs should be grouped separately from multiparous ewes as these females will still be growing and therefore require extra feed. Body condition scoring should be carried out six weeks pre lambing so that there is time for the feeding regime to be modified if BCS falls outside 2.5 – 3.0. Thin twin ewes could need to be moved in to the triplet group to help.

Knowing forage quality, will help determine what compound ration will complement the overall diet as well as calculating feeding rates in the weeks pre-lambing, in order to meet energy and protein requirements of the ewe.

In the final six weeks of gestation, 70-80% of foetal growth is laid down, with that bringing an increased requirement for energy. This energy will be used for maintenance, foetal growth as mentioned above, and for colostrum production in the last two weeks. Physically, rumen space will be continually decreasing as lamb size increases meaning the energy density of the ewe’s diet needs to be reassessed and increased weekly from the start of feeding until lambing by increasing concentrate amounts. Table 1 shows feeding rates for a 70kg twin bearing ewe on various forages.

Protein requirements are also increased in the final weeks of pregnancy. At this stage, along with RDP (rumen degradable protein) it is desirable that some UDP (rumen bypass protein), is included in the diet. This has a two tailed effect firstly by saving valuable energy when intakes are declining and secondly by supplying essential protein for colostrum and milk production.

Mineral supplementation plays a key role in late pregnancy nutrition especially selenium along with vitamin E. The combination of these two products are recognised for their ability to increase lamb vigour and immune function. Protected selenium (Selplex) is also known to reduce to risk of white muscle disease and enhance the quality of colostrum for new born lambs.

It is essential that adequate feed space is provided so that intakes are not compromised in the final weeks pre-lambing. Flock owners should also be mindful of lameness this spring with silages lower in dry matter, therefore bedding may become wetter in turn causing foot problems. In this instance, increasing the frequency of bedding ewes is a simple and effective method of keeping foot problems and lameness to a minimum this lambing season.

Thompsons’ sheep range is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the ewes by promoting health, lamb survivability and performance. For Further information please contact your local Thompsons’ representative, call (028) 9035 1321 or visit our website on www.thompson.co.uk