Quality of supplements is critical at feeding time

THE critical feeding time once tupping is complete is the final six to eight weeks pre-lambing when forages, generally adequate for mid-pregnancy, need supplementation with energy, protein, minerals, trace elements and vitamins.

The quality of this supplementation is critical as the appetite of the ewe is reduced by the growing lambs as pregnancy progresses due to the lambs gaining 70pc of their birthweight in the last six weeks.

A total of 66pc of lamb deaths up to birth are through hypothermia, starvation, abortion and stillbirths. Most of these can be attributed to poor feeding through pregnancy.

Reasons for buying a better quality feed during this period include:

  • Fitter ewes – less problems leading up to lambing
  • Larger stronger lambs – larger lambs have a better chance of survival during poor conditions. A larger lamb has a greater volume to surface area and so cools down slower
  • Less twin lamb disease – ewes expecting multiple births have reduced appetite near to lambing due to the space taken up by the lambs. To avoid problems associated with twin lamb disease, it is important to fill every available kilogram of rumen capacity with the highest nutrient dense feed. Having feed buckets and blocks available 24 hours a day can also help in cases where shy feeders get less than their requirements
  • Higher quality and quantity of colostrum – adequate colostrum is the key to giving the lamb the best possible start. It is a vital first energy source as well as transferring passive immunity from the ewe to the lamb
  • Improved milk yield – there is a direct link between ewe milk supply and lamb growth.

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