Winter Feeding Critical To Lambing Returns
The impacts of the harsh winter, late spring and a drought ridden summer of 2018 could well stretch through into 2019’s lamb crop with many producers at risk of missing out on up to £60 per lamb if winter feeding is not addressed appropriately.
Ewe body condition impacts directly on tupping success and whilst much has been done to address this already, then considering extra supplementation throughout mid-pregnancy, in addition to tupping and pre-lambing, may be necessary this season to ensure the production of strong, healthy lambs next spring.
Once pregnancy is established after the critical first 35 days of pregnancy, the foetuses will appear relatively safe and undemanding until the final six weeks. Although very little growth will occur during this ‘mid-pregnancy’ period, the foetal membranes, including the placenta which is essential for providing oxygen and essential nutrients to the growing lambs, will do most of their growing meaning that if nutrition is compromised then placental size can be reduced.
"Inadequate nutrition in early/mid-pregnancy cannot be compensated for later on in pregnancy and can result in the production of smaller and weaker lambs with higher mortality."
Unfortunately, poor nutrition at this point, and its effects on ewe body condition and placental growth, cannot be compensated for later on in pregnancy having been shown to result in the production of smaller and weaker lambs with higher mortality. Additionally, the surviving smaller and weaker lambs will require additional feed inputs in order to achieve target weights and markets which are key to maximising profitability from each lamb crop – lambs sold in June this year benefitted from returns of well over £100 per head, compared to later finished lambs being worth just 60% of the value of those sold in June (figure 1).
Figure 1: Liveweight Lamb Prices. (Source AHDB)
"Later finished lambs in 2018 were worth just 60% of the value of those sold in June."
Feeding in-lamb ewes to maintain or gain condition this winter in order to meet target lambing body condition scores (BCS) of 3.5 and 2.5, for lowland and hill ewes respectively, will not only impact directly on the success of lambing itself, but new research has shown it will also support the reproductive potential of female lambs that are to be kept as future breeding stock.
In instances where 1 BCS or greater is required to be gained over mid-pregnancy, forage stocks (dependant on stocking rates and grass growth rates) may not be adequate to meet daily energy requirements (table 1), so in these cases supplementary feeding may be required.
Table 1:Ewe nutritional requirements for ewe body condition during pregnancy.
Rumenco’s MAXX Energy low moisture licks offer ideal nutritional support for in-lamb ewes throughout mid-pregnancy where extra energy is required to help support body condition gains. The little and often controlled intakes also mean the product is long-lasting therefore providing both an economic benefit whilst reducing the frequency with which buckets need to be replaced. In addition, MAXX Energy is packed with minerals, vitamins and trace elements to help offset any potential deficiencies found in grazing necessary for optimal flock health throughout the entire pregnancy.
In addition to extra energy required to reach target BCS, feeding additional protein will also be necessary in certain situations in order to support placental development and any required weight gain. Whilst the protein content of better quality pastures may be adequate for this job, it is unlikely that rougher grazing will contain sufficient nutrients therefore potentially impacting on the lambing success of hill ewes in particular.
In these cases, Rumenco’s PROMAXX low moisture licks or Rumevite Hill Grazer feed blocks will help provide the additional necessary protein to support maintenance, weight gain and placental growth for the production of strong and healthy lambs with better growth performance. Whether blocks or buckets are preferred, both free-access supplements provide a mixture of natural protein and urea to help increase protein supply to in-lamb ewes whilst also supporting the digestion and intakes of poorer quality forages. In addition, Rumevite Hill Grazer contains a full measure of Diamond V XPC, an all-natural feed material which helps support rumen function for improved digestion of poor forages.
As tupping is completed and ewes are safely in lamb then the focus should not just be on pre-lambing, but also winter feeding of ewes to support them through the equally important mid-pregnancy period. Ensuring adequate supplies of energy and protein, plus minerals and vitamins, will be even more crucial this year given the tough grazing conditions endured by many to ensure ewe condition is on target to achieve better returns from the production of strong and healthy lambs.
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