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Optimise ewe’s ration to support performance

During the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, 75% of foetal growth occurs which results in an increase in the ewes requirements for energy and protein. The biggest challenge in meeting this energy increase is lamb growth reducing space inside the ewe. This causes the ewe’s dry matter intake (DMI) to drop up to 30% resulting in a DMI as low as 1.4 kg (depending on ewe size), highlighting the importance of quality feed during this critical time.

If we get it wrong and twin lamb disease (TLD) occurs, it has a knock-on effect throughout the production cycle for both ewes and lambs; poor ewe health, poor lamb health, lower milk quality and quantity, lower growth rates, poor weaning weight, increased cost of creep feeds to reach target weight and then playing catchup on getting the ewes condition to target! If we look at TLD treatment alone, a typical “off the shelf” energy shot can cost in the range from £8-£15 per ewe. This cost excludes farmer time or the cost of milk replacer to bottle feed the lamb as most ewes milk drys up, usually, this is temporary but in extreme cases survival of both lamb and ewe can be compromised.

Although on a per tonne basis concentrated feed may look unattractive, when you look at a whole production cycle the investment for those ewes will help mitigate costs further during the year. Investing in feeding quality ewe feed now, will help meet the nutrition requirement of your ewes which will ultimately help your lamb crop and business profitability.

Optimise your nutrition this season:

  • Silage analysis changes as you work through a clamp, the same goes for baled silage. Sending silage samples from various bales and at regular intervals if you have clamp silage will help you understand the quality of your forage. Once you have the analysis, you can make informed feeding decisions. That may be feeding the best quality silage to twins and triplets, or feeding poorer quality silage earlier in pregnancy. It also allows you to optimise your purchased feeds.
  • Have active discussions with your NWF sales specialist to ensure what you are feeding is suitable, or, look at what you used in the previous year and how your ewes performed. When they were weaned, how was ewe condition? Is this something you could have supported?
  • Keep in mind protein; we talk a lot about energy in ewe rations, but protein is also important for milk yields and lamb growth. By knowing the forage nutrients, you can review what you need to meet requirements and minimise resource waste.
  • Promote dry matter intakes through feed presentation and feed space.
  • To optimise performance, ensure mineral supply meets requirements and ensure clean, fresh water is available.
  • How do you know if you are getting it right? Blood samples, condition scoring ewes, colostrum quality testing and monitoring lamb growth rates are all key performance indicators.

Energy in ewe’s diets pre-lambing is always a point of discussion, but we must also consider the quality and quantity of protein as the demand for metabolisable protein (MP) rapidly increases in the last few weeks of lambing, and those ewes carrying multiple lambs cannot produce enough from forage alone to support requirements. MP is important for rumen function, milk production and lamb growth. “Protein” can be split into two; rumen degradable protein which is broken down in the rumen and bypass protein/ digestible undegradable protein (DUP) which passes through the rumen, undigested. There are several factors which determine the protein requirement, including weight, litter size and environment. Typically, a housed 70kg twin bearing ewe will need 93-126g/day of MP depending on how far off lambing she is. Research from Dr John Vipond, as well as continued application of his research on farms has shown that supplementation of high DUP feeds, such as soya bean meal and Ultra Soy, can result in heavier lambs, more colostrum, increase lamb vigour which all lead to fewer losses.

For further information on NWF protected proteins, pleas speak to your local NWF Sales Specialist or call 01829 262270.

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