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Feeding Focus - Ewe Nutrition

Sector News Sector News9-3-2018
Afbeelding: Ewbol Quality Ewe 2014

Correct nutrition is essential for lambing success.

Pre-lambing nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring the birth of strong lambs that can be finished quickly and cost effectively. 

With a sharp increase in lamb supply forecast for 2016, maximising returns will be dependent on efficient finishing. 

Increased energy demand

Poor ewe nutrition in the final weeks before lambing is the cause of more than half of annual lamb losses, with the last six weeks before lambing representing the crucial period for sheep farmers to improve lambing outcomes. 

Formulating a pre-lambing feeding plan to provide ewes with the nutritional requirements that they need is essential to ensuring success at lambing time.

Focus on forage quality

Whilst there are plentiful stocks of grass silage this year after another good growing season, forage quality remains key to animal performance. 

Adequate energy and protein are essential for pre- and post-lambing ewes, so it is important you access the nutritional quality of your forage, as this will have a significant impact on the amount of concentrate you have to provide to ewes prior to lambing. 

Considering cereals?

Good supplies of cereals and lower year-on-year prices will tempt some sheep farmers to consider homemixing cereals. Whilst this may help reduce feed costs, it is important that rations are well balanced and supplementation with additional protein, digestible fibre, vitamins and minerals may be required.

Key nutrients

Protein: An essential nutrient, which stimulates lamb growth rates and milk production. Multiple lambs and poor quality forage will increase a ewe's rumen degradable (ERDP) and bypass (DUP) protein requirements. 

Vitamins: In the 8 weeks prior to lambing, vitamin supplemetation will help maintain ewe health. Key supplements include Vitamin E, which helps improve lamb vigour. 

Minerals: Calcium supplementation will help prevent hypocalcaemia (lambing sickness), post-lambing and magnesium will reduce the incidence of hypomagnesaemia (staggers) at grass. 

Trace elements: Trace elements such as selenium, cobalt and iodine will help improve lamb health and vigour. Zinc supplementation will reduce the risk of mastitis and lameness in ewes.