Are you feeding your ewes the correct nutrition prior to lambing?

Correct feeding management and quality ewe nutrition is the sound basis for a successful – and profitable – sheep enterprise. With lambing just around the corner, there are several areas where attention to detail can pay dividends.

Fit, healthy ewes are an important factor in ensuring lambs are vigorous at birth and continue to thrive.

Extra High Energy Crystalyx is a cooked molasses-based feed lick that provides a very palatable and available source of energy 16ME MJ/kg/DM (from sugars and saturated fats).

Crystalyx Extra High Energy, together with protein, minerals, trace elements and vitamins are vital to the health of both the ewe and the developing foetuses throughout pregnancy – but especially important in mid to late pregnancy before the introduction of other supplementary feeds.

Offering Crystalyx on a self-help basis allows ewes to “top-up” their nutrient intakes as and when required. Only 30g of Extra High Energy Crystalyx provides the same intake of trace elements as 0.5lb of compound feed and is sufficient to counteract any likely trace element deficiencies in forages.

Access to dry hay in mid-pregnancy is always beneficial to ensure adequate forage availability as grass growth declines.

Late pregnancy feeding

Lamb survival is largely dependent on a good birth-weight and high lamb vigour, coupled with good maternal care and a swift onset of lactation by the ewe. With almost 70% of foetal growth taking place in the final six weeks of pregnancy, all these factors are dependent on good late pregnancy nutrition.

Fit, healthy ewes are an important factor in ensuring lambs are vigorous at birth and continue to thrive. Economic production depends on making the best possible use of home-grown forages to minimise bought-in feed requirements.

Twin lamb disease (pregnancy toxaemia) is the result of a dramatic shortfall in dietary energy intake by the ewe. Most cases of twin lamb are caused by under feeding of multi-foetate ewes – a true dietary energy shortfall.

But twin lamb can also occur in well-fed, over-fat ewes. Fat ewes have a lower dry matter intake – they become “lazy feeders” – and their appetite falls more quickly in late pregnancy than it does with fit ewes.

The same is true for cattle, which is why we say “fit not fat” as calving approaches.

Using Crystalyx intakes as a guide to ration balance and nutrient supply can help reduce the risk of over-fatness through over feeding, as greater reliance can be placed on home-grown forages.

Research shows that feeding Crystalyx on a self-help system allows ewes to regulate their intakes according to their requirements. As the researchers at Newcastle University reported: “Crystalyx intakes in late pregnancy can be used as a guide to the adequacy of nutrient supply.”

Because it is licked, not chewed or bitten, Crystalyx provides a continual “trickle feed” of nutrients to stimulate rumen fermentation and forage digestion.

Crystalyx intakes are a very good guide to the adequacy of nutrient supply because Crystalyx never replaces forage – it complements and balances it and improves overall diet digestibility.

The time of introduction of supplementary feeds in late pregnancy is dictated by forage quality, lamb burden and body condition. Single-bearing ewes can be left outside and fed hay and Extra High Energy Crystalyx with no further supplementary feed necessary – and this can reduce the risk of over-sized single lambs.

Twin and triplet-bearing ewes will need supplementary concentrate feeding; the poorer the quality of available forage, the earlier supplementary feeds should be introduced.

Feeding Crystalyx can delay the need to introduce supplementary feeds. Trials have shown that ewes regulate their intake of Crystalyx according to their energy requirement.

Sudden increases in Crystalyx intake are a sign the ewe is looking for more energy than is available from her current diet.

Feeding Crystalyx, therefore, helps maintain energy intakes throughout mid and late pregnancy to optimise foetal development and lamb birth-weight.

This means your stock not only makes the best possible use of home-grown feeds but can also let you know by increasing Crystalyx consumption when you need to introduce – or increase – supplementary feeds.

Further information

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