Combining the best nutrition and management with epigenetics to shape the future of sheep

12 Jul 2019

How can we combine nutrition and management to get the best out of the genetics we have? The best place to start is by looking at the nutrition of the ewes and the tups before tupping.

The concept of epigenetics is a simple one. All lambs are born with the same genetic potential. Genes are either switched on or off. The genes we’re interested in are the genes which get us the results we want. So let’s switch on the ones we want and switch off the ones we don’t.

This diagram shows an example where a gene has been switched off by supplying the animal with methyl groups which have bound to the gene, switching it OFF. Methyl groups can be supplied by different substances. This could be a gene which makes the lamb more susceptible to a disease. This epigenetic process is particularly important in early life as cells are first receiving their instructions that will dictate their future job. It’s worth bearing in mind, these processes can also be influenced by environmental factors such as diet, stress and pollutants.

 If we get the genes we want turned ON and the genes we don’t want turned OFF, we see an increase in performance – all the things we want to see in our flock, including:

  • Improved scanning %
  • Improved colostrum quality and quantity
  • Improved energy metabolism
  • Improved carcase confirmation
  • Improved health
  • Increased % of live lambs
  • Improved suckling, vocalisation
  • Improved growth and finish
  • Improved meat yield
  • Increased longevity


Achieve your potential

Scientific trials in sheep were one of the starting points in the development of our 3 step sheep nutrition solution, formulated to provide farmers with a product containing key ingredients that produce desired epigenetic effects within an easy to use range of buckets.

On the run up to tupping we recommend our mineral bucket Feet and Fertility which supplies all the essential trace elements and vitamins your flock will need at this crucial time:

  • Fish oil – for fertility and immunity
  • Biotin – for hoof condition
  • Sel-plex – fertility and immunity
  • Zinc – hoof health
  • Choline – foetal development

Of course, you cannot just throw out the buckets and leave them to it!

They should be part of the strategy, something to give you the extra edge and part of your continual improvement. Some epigenetic changes are stable and last a lifetime, and some may be passed on from one generation to the next, without changing the genes. This benefits your enterprise now, your enterprise in years to come when superior replacements filter through and it also helps the enterprises of your customers – those who buy your tups, hoggs and gimmers. Ultimately, we have a responsibility as an industry to ensure our genetics are as good as they possibly can be and then we make the most of them!

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