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Get ready for lambing season and focus on ewe nutrition

Lisa Mancell at Farmgate Feeds gives their advice on how you can give your lambs the best start in life

As we start preparing for lambing season now is the time to ensure that your ewes are getting the right nutrition to pass onto their lambs, giving them the best start in those crucial early days whilst supporting their own health. With colder weather looming and ewe’s nutritional demands rising rapidly before they give birth, nutrition plays a critical role and it’s our job to ensure that we monitor our flock and provide them with what they need.

The last eight weeks before lambing is when the majority of foetal growth occurs, with 75% of total lamb growth occurring. The lamb foetus then grows rapidly in the last few weeks before lambing which puts increasing pressure on the ewe’s rumen, reducing its capacity and suppressing a ewe’s feed intake by as much as 30%. As a result, it’s very important that the ewe is given the right balance of nutrition and increasing the quantity of high-quality protein in a ewe’s diet is also advisable during this time.

Afbeelding: FG lambing LR

Vitamins, minerals and trace supplements also have an important part to play with Vitamin E and Selenium both being shown to have a positive influence on lamb vigour and survival rates, and calcium helping to prevent hypocalcaemia pre-lambing and magnesium preventing Hypomagnesemia (‘staggers’), post lambing. To help reduce the risk of hypothermia, supplement ewes with iodine and use zinc to stop ewes developing mastitis and lameness problems. Cobalt can also encourage lambs to stand and suckle, which helps with early milk/colostrum intakes and therefore promotes early lamb growth gains.

Farmgate Feeds All Stock range is flexible, palatable and highly nutritious with well-balanced products to provide the required levels of energy and proteins together with essential minerals and vitamins for optimum health. Farmgate’s All Stock 18% Coarse Mix product provides extra protein to support ewes. It is recommended that feeding is commenced 6 weeks prior to lambing at 0.2kg per head per day, slowly increased until 1kg per head per day is fed, some 2 weeks before lambing*. This should continue after lambing until the grass is plentiful.

The ewe’s energy supplies will be severely stretched during the late stage of pregnancy and if they are not properly supported nutritionally, this can lead to lamb losses or poor performing lambs after birth. Colostrum, the nutrient-rich first milk, is also created at this time; this is vital to support the healthy growth of lambs and provides antibodies to protect them from infection. The right nutrition at the right stage will improve colostrum quality and milk yield which will then impact lamb birthweights, growth rates and ultimately their profitability.

Concentrating our attention on nutrition now will start to pay off as we reach lambing season with the best chance of aiming to get our healthy lambs weaned off by 12 weeks, giving the ewes a chance to recover before the next cycle of lambing.

*actual feeding levels will depend on ewe condition, weather and the number of lambs expected/born.