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Rationing Ewes for a successful lambing

With this year’s challenging market conditions with feed prices, you may consider reducing feed rates however this may have a negative impact and in the long term be costly.

In the 6 weeks prior to lambing 75% of foetal growth occurs during late pregnancy, this corresponds with the increase in the ewe’s requirement for energy and protein as seen in the graph below. The biggest challenge in meeting this energy increase is the lamb growth causes the ewes Dry Matter Intake (DMI) to drop up to 30% resulting in a DMI as low as 1.4 Kg. Feeding High energy Ewe feed such as Ewetrition Rolls or Champion Ewe Nuts help to meet the nutrition requirements of ewes.

When ewes have a deficit in energy, they mobilise back fat which is metabolised in the liver. If excess back fat is mobilised the liver can become overworked and appetite declines further. This can lead to pregnancy toxaemia, hypocalcaemia, lower milk yield and increased lamb mortality. Most mammary gland development also occurs in the last month of pregnancy, under-nutrition can reduce colostrum quantity, and delays onset of lactation. Colostrum is essential for immunity. Lambs require 50ml/kg (of birth weight) of colostrum within the first 6 hours of life as the ability of the gut to absorb immunoglobulins into the bloodstream reduces after this time. Within 24hours, lambs should receive 200ml per kg (of birthweight), As a guide an optimum birthweight for twins is 4-5kg per lamb (reference feeding the ewe).

100% of lamb growth in the first 4 weeks is dependent on milk. After this date introducing Fast Lamb Pellets will increase the suckling lamb’s nutrient intake. This can help achieve target weights and condition, reduce risks of parasites and can allow an increase in stocking densities. When introducing creep, do so carefully to avoid gorging and acidosis. Wean lambs at around 12-16 weeks, weigh regularly after to record growth rates and predicted fishing dates. This can also indicate if there are any issues in nutrition and health.


  1. Group ewes according to live weight, number of lambs, body condition and age
  2. Good quality forage available at all times
    – Know your analyses
    – Maximum 0.5 kg high quality concentrate per feed
  3. Adequate trough space
    – All ewes can eat concentrate at the same time
    – Clean troughs
  4. Regular feeding time no sudden changes in feed type or quality
  5. Clean water available at all times

Call NWF Agriculture on 0800 756 2787 or email for further information, prices and advice.


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