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Feeding ewes to maintain pregnancy and condition

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Throughout this autumn, and as we approach winter, grass has been plentiful although nutrient value is dropping away fast, and early reports suggest ewes may not be in as good condition as they should be at this crucial time of year in the sheep calendar. Getting nutrition wrong during the early- to mid-pregnancy periods can have a serious determinantal effect on not only this crop of lambs but also the future reproductive ability of any female lambs born claims Rumenco’s Commercial Nutritionist, Dr Alison Bond. 

The early pregnancy period, from mating to approximately day thirty-five, is the time during which fertilisation and implantation occurs. During this period, foetal growth is minimal, therefore the nutrient requirements for pregnancy are very small. “Research suggests a maintenance level of nutrition without any abrupt changes is ideal to help maintain body condition score and bodyweight. However, it’s important to remember that during this time thinner ewes will have a slightly higher appetite and requirements”, says Dr Bond “so it can therefore be worth offering a feed supplement during this time”. 

Rumenco’s MAXX Energy is a high energy (16MJ ME/kg dry matter) and 12% protein, low moisture feed bucket. Manufactured using a unique process that maximises nutrient preservation and sugar content it is perfect for helping to offset declining grass quality and help maintain animal performance. In addition to the energy and protein supplied by this bucket, it also contains optimal levels of minerals, vitamins and trace elements, including selenium and cobalt which are crucial during this early pregnancy period. 

During Mid-pregnancy, (days thirty-five to ninety) foetal growth is still minimal but essential placenta development is occurring, meaning if nutrition is compromised, then placental growth can be reduced. “Crucially, if nutrition is compromised at this point then it cannot be compensated for in later pregnancy meaning lambs may be born smaller and at higher risk of mortality” states Dr Bond. 

“An energy intake of 10 megajoules (MJ) per day is sufficient to meet the maintenance needs of an average size (70kg), good condition ewe” she adds.  “However, as in early pregnancy, thinner ewes require additional energy and protein to gain condition and ewe lambs the same in order to continue growing. For ewes in good condition, moderate quality hay plus grazing will typically meet energy requirements, but may have inadequate protein for maintenance and crucially, placental development”.

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Offering Rumevite Hill Grazer feed blocks or PROMAXX feed buckets offers a simple and suitable way of supplementing protein intake. Rumevite Hill Grazer is a high protein (23% crude protein) feed and mineral block containing a mix of natural and urea proteins which increases protein availability to stock and encourages digestion of poorer quality forages. It also contains XPC, a fermentation product that helps to support optimum rumen health, average daily live weight gain and feed efficiency. Similarly, PROMAXX is a high protein (20% crude protein), controlled intake, low moisture bucket which also contains natural plant extracts and fermentation products to support robust digestive health. It is particularly useful for sheep in mid pregnancy or hill ewes. Both products are fortified with minerals, vitamins and trace elements, including selenium and cobalt which again, are important throughout pregnancy.

“Although tupping is successfully completed for many, it’s important not to overlook winter feeding” concludes Dr Bond. “Pregnant ewes continue to require specific nutrients which are not always available from forage alone so ensuring requirements are met by offering feed and mineral supplements such as Rumevite and MAXX can help safeguard both the lamb crop next spring, and also future performance of those lambs born”.

For further information about these products or to find out where your nearest stockist is please email info@rumenco.co.uk or telephone 0800 833 675