Published Wednesday, 28th November 2012 in SAC Consulting news
SAC Consulting, a Division of SRUC, is advising sheep farmers to take important ewe nutrition steps for winter, in preparation for successful lambing next Spring.
Difficult weather has led to variable ewe condition scores and low quality/low intake forages. This means farmers may need to modify sheep diets and keep a closer watch on ewe condition score, says SAC Consulting animal nutritionist Dr Colin Morgan.
Colin said: “Silage composition has suffered badly in some areas as a result of the weather conditions. It is essential that silages are analysed so that they can be supplemented appropriately."
In meeting the nutrient needs of the ewe, energy and protein requirements will be determined by her weight, condition score and numbers of lambs carried.
Colin explained: “With poor quality forages ewes may need more supplementary feed but it is important to manage this to avoid overfeeding starchy cereals or sudden dietary changes that can cause metabolic upsets. Manage the use of body reserves to ensure ewes lamb in condition score 2 ½ - 3 when lambing in March or condition score 2 – 2½ for ewes lambing at grass."
The stressful weather combined with an increase in sheep diseases caused by parasites has meant a difficult year for ewes, so their condition scores may be lower than usual. For thin ewes, feeding should start earlier at nine weeks pre-lambing. Supplementary feeding levels by lambing will need to be higher at around 0.75kg compound /cereal per day split into two feeds. “Do not leave it too late, score your ewes now and make planned changes to rations,” said Colin.
It is also advisable to supplement thin twin-bearing ewes in mid- to late-pregnancy. Immediately after scanning separate thin ewes out for extra feeding. Supplement with cereal at 0.5 kg per day if the ewes are on low quality silage. Try to at least maintain or improve condition score by up to half a score between scanning and the last three weeks of pregnancy. Low bushel weight cereals are excellent for this purpose and can be a best buy. Feed thin grains whole as less tends to come through in the dung than with plump grains.
SAC Consulting’s local advisory offices can provide more information to farmers. The Ayr office is hosting a free ewe management event at Ayr Mart on 29 November. Call Chloe McCulloch on 01292 525 316 to book.
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