SHEEP - Nutritionally preparing for lambing 2018
6 Feb 2018
This time of year is always a great time to assess the ewe flock and to start to think about setting a feeding plan to run up to lambing and beyond. As the first results of ewe scanning start to come through it appears that ewes are going into the second trimester of pregnancy in reasonable condition and carrying a decent crop of lambs. Reports appear to suggest a good crop of twins but fewer triplets than perhaps we have been seen in the past year or so.
Up until now the pregnancy has had little impact on the nutrition of the ewe but she is now entering an important phase for placental development and foetal growth. The ewe is an incredibly robust animal which has evolved to build up significant energy reserves during the summer and to mobilise this energy during the winter. So, despite the recent harsh weather the ewe will have been able to release some of this backfat to keep the placenta growing even though she is in negative energy balance. Of course, this relies on her having adequate body fat reserves, and highlights the need to body condition score ewes around this time to ensure thin ewes are supplemented. The recent research suggests that ewes should be maintaining condition around now and that excessive weight loss will not just affect the birthweight and survival of this year’s lambs, but will particularly impact the follicular development of the unborn ewe lamb leading to future reduced fertility and fecundity.
As we go through the winter the quality and quantity of forage available drives the appropriate feed regime. If high quality forage is readily available there are great opportunities to reduce feed levels and utilise low volume, high quality supplementary feeds. The danger in years like this where grass supply is more limited is that the ewe struggles to consume adequate forage to maintain herself. This is often seen later in pregnancy where fat mobilisation in ewes carrying twins and triplets occurs at a faster rate than the liver can cope with leading to twin lamb disease. Simply providing high levels of compound feed is no substitute for low forage availability; the ewe needs to maintain a functional rumen to drive total energy intake and milk quality. Instead, balancing the available forage with the appropriate supplementation of compound feed, sugar beet pulp or a specialist molassed energy lick such as Energyze Vitality can ensure adequate energy levels are achieved and metabolic problems minimised.
It is worth discussing your plans with your vet and Harbro Sheep Specialist to ensure the ewes are adequately supported over the next couple of months.