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.

Related Content

  • SHEEP - Nutritional Support Post Lambing

    18 May 2017

    Across the country light will be appearing at the end of the poly tunnel and as quick as lambing sheds witnessed new life appear, grass fields will come to life too, as sets of ewes and lambs are turned out. What more could be wished for?   With idyllic scenes such as this before the eyes of earlier lambing shepherd, in the grasp of those still lambing, and far off in the imagination of those w...

    Read more
  • SHEEP - Energyzing the flock with buckets and grass

    6 Feb 2018

    Andrew Cullens, along with his brother Ian and father James, manage Dollarbank Farm outside Dollar, central Scotland. Andrew is a fourth generation farmer on the tenanted 3,000 acre estate which has been in the family since 1912. Their hill location is home to 2,100 breeding ewes which are mainly Blackface with some Scotch mule. Due to the landscape, the farm is predominantly laid to grass. Dol...

    Read more
  • SHEEP - Preventing Twin Lamb Disease

    5 Jan 2017

    Twin Lamb Disease (TLD) can occur in thin or over fat ewes and is triggered by a stressful event such as a change in weather, change in diet or foot problems which results in a critical shortage of blood glucose causing a demand on the ewe using her backfat for energy.

    Read more