‘Cheap rations in late pregnancy are not always the best option for sheep’

Feeding sheep cheap rations in late pregnancy may not always be the best option, according to UCD’s Tommy Boland.

Speaking at a recent ASA Sheep Technology Training Day held in UCD’s Lyons Estate, the UCD Lecturer said that sheep farmers need to consider the energy content of their ewe diets.

“One of the problems with some farms is that they want a cheap ration in late pregnancy. They want to keep costs down as much as possible, but cheap doesn’t always mean better value,” he said.

“The higher the energy density of the diet the more efficiently the ewe will use it, and so she will need less of the diet,” he said.

Boland advised farmers to always look at the energy content of the diets given to sheep, as energy is the main driver of performance.

“Look at the energy nutrition first, then the protein and the minerals and vitamins afterwards,” he said.

He said that there is a massive demand for energy during late pregnancy as the majority of foetal growth occurs during this period.

50% of the development takes place during the last month of pregnancy.

The nutrition specialist also said that the protein content of the diet should increase during the final few weeks prior to lambing.

“At a farm level, you should come in with protein three-to-four weeks before the ewes start to lamb to make sure that the first ewes are not lambing without milk.

“If you mess up the protein, you will reduce colostrum production and reduce milk production, this will have an impact on lamb performance,” he warned.

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