What does history have to do with sheep nutrition?

At the end of World War 2, Germany sought revenge on the Dutch who had not helped their war effort, by blockading Holland. This meant food and fuel supplies were limited, resulting in restricted food intake, with calorie intakes dropping as low as 500 calories per day and poor living conditions across the country. By the following spring, allied forces regained control and with it, diets and living conditions were very quickly back to ‘normal’. However, the consequences of the famine would live on.

The consequences were longest lived for babies which were conceived during the famine. The Dutch kept meticulous records, meaning these babies were followed for the rest of their lives. If we consider a family where the first sibling was conceived before and another conceived during the famine, but were then raised exactly the same, the second sibling was generally more susceptible to ill health; obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and schizophrenia. Whereas parents and other siblings went on to have reasonably ‘normal’ lives.

What this shows us is, nutrition and stress at point of conception has an influence throughout the offspring’s entire life. This is the concept of ‘Epigenetics’ in practise.

The same is true when we consider sheep performance. By understanding epigenetics and therefore getting our management and nutrition right just before and throughout tupping, we can influence which performance genes are switched on and how this goes on to enhance overall lifetime performance of the subsequent lambs.

Through combining science and innovation, Harbro have taken the concept of epigenetics and made it practical and easy to implement on every sheep farm and smallholding across the country. Feet & Fertility mineral buckets are such a simple way of supplementing the late summer and autumn grass to help boost scanning percentages, increase number of viable pregnancies and also to have a positive epigenetic effect, which means lambs are stronger at birth and perform better throughout their entire life.

When supplemented with Feet & Fertility mineral buckets, coupled with good management, we see an increase in:

  • overall foot health
  • less lame sheep
  • scanning percentage
  • number of live lambs and lamb vigour
  • subsequent lamb performance

Finally, don’t forget about the tups! Half the genetics come from the ewe and half from the tup. Semen production takes around 7 weeks, so to maximise your return on investment, tups should also be offered Feet & Fertility buckets for at least 7 weeks pre-tupping too.

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