Sheep nutrition critical from six weeks pre-lambing
Around fifty percent of all lambing losses occur within the first 48 hours after birth with AHDB estimating the cost to be around £25 for every lamb lost.
Causes range from stillbirth, mis-mothering and small, weak lambs being born, with aound 60% of reasons potentially being linked to nutrition.
The final six weeks of pregnancy are some of the most nutritionally challenging times of the ewe’s year, as energy and protein demands increase nearly two-fold in line with the 75% of foetal growth that occurs during this short period.
Meeting this increased requirement for both energy and protein forms the basis of success at lambing, including the success of the physical lambing event through to influencing the yield and quality of colostrum produced and ability to produce vigorous lambs with a good birth weight.
It is essential that ewes are fed according to their needs – both underfed and overfed ewes present problems around lambing with potential detrimental outcomes for both.
Underfed ewes direct available energy towards maintaining body condition. This gives an increased likelihood of producing small lambs that are weaker at birth and slow to stand and suck, whilst the ewe herself may also produce reduced quantities of poorer quality colostrum. Under supply of energy can also result in slower births, that are more stressful on both the ewe and lamb, and impaired maternal behaviour leading to increased risks of mis-mothering due to lack of energy.
Overfed ewes are more prone to vaginal prolapses and tend to produce larger lambs. The lambing process is also further complicated by fat being laid down in the pelvic area making the birth canal narrower and lambing difficulties even more likely.
Ensuring the ewe’s nutritional requirements are accurately met during these final weeks of pregnancy will pay dividends at lambing time, and beyond, particularly where lamb health and survival are concerned.
Silage analysis forms the basis of feeding programs with differences in energy content stark. Silage with an energy content of 11MJ ME/kg DM with a good intake factor, may negate the need for concentrates even for twin-bearing ewes with just balancing of protein required. Compare this to a silage with energy content of 10MJ ME/kg DM, where additional concentrates will be needed to meet ewe requirements. In simple terms a 1MJ ME/kg DM increase in silage energy value potentially saves 10kg/ewe of sheep feed over a full program.
Rumenco’s LIFELINE Lamb and Ewe can form the basis of any late pregnancy/lambing nutrition plan providing energy, minerals and vitamins to support both the ewe, and unborn lamb health and vigour, plus rumen by-pass protein to complement and help utilisation of silages. Available as a bucket or block, and even as a protein meal, it is suitable for all feeding systems, with buckets and blocks reducing labour requirements at this busy time of year, whilst also reducing stress on ewes around feeding as they approach lambing.
The unique patented formulation of the LIFELINE Lamb and Ewe bucket is the only pre-lambing product proven by SRUC (formerly SAC) to improve colostrum quality, including a 25% increase in immunoglobulin (IgG) levels, a key measure of colostrum quality. This unique feature helps optimise lamb health through supporting the ability of the ewe to pass antibodies to her lamb via the all-important first feed of colostrum – a process known as passive immunity – which supports the lamb’s ability to resist infections in the critical first days of life, being particularly beneficial for first time lambers and those lambing outside.
LIFELINE Lamb and Ewe also supports an easier lambing, reducing the need for intervention and leaving lambs that are on their feet quickly and suckling – a true demonstration of its impact on both ewe and lamb as a feeding supplement.
Ensuring ewes are fed according to their needs directly influences lambing success and adding LIFELINE Lamb and Ewe to your feeding plan, ideally from six weeks pre-lambing for best results, will help support your flock through this crucial part of the year.