Don’t ignore the mid-pregnancy nutrition of your ewes

Feeding management of ewes always places emphasis on the pre-tupping and late-pregnancy periods; little thought is given to the mid-pregnancy period (months two and three of pregnancy).

Whilst foetuses undergo very little growth in mid-pregnancy, the growth of the placenta continues and is completed by the end of the third month of gestation.

Nutrition in mid-pregnancy should be sufficient to optimise placental growth. The placenta provides all the nutrients for the unborn lambs in late pregnancy. Poor placental development will result in low birth weight lambs, with a poor will to survive – irrespective of late-pregnancy feeding.

Importance of mid-pregnancy feeding

Mid-pregnancy feeding should aim to maintain ewe condition as far as possible. Loss of body condition in mid-pregnancy will only reduce body reserves available for milk production in early lactation.

So why penalise lamb growth rates by underfeeding in mid-pregnancy?

Trial work undertaken at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne showed that ewes with access to Crystalyx Extra High Energy in mid-pregnancy maintained a better condition score than ewes on grass alone – even though grass availability was poorer for the Crystalyx group.

Research work by SAC has also indicated the importance of maintaining trace element status throughout pregnancy.

Trials showed that a sub-clinical deficiency of cobalt in the first half of pregnancy resulted in lambs which were slower to stand and suckle and much more susceptible to neonatal diseases. All these symptoms occurred irrespective of late-pregnancy feeding.

Crystalyx Extra High Energy

Crystalyx Extra High Energy provides a very palatable and available source of minerals, trace elements and vitamins for ewes throughout pregnancy; especially in mid-pregnancy before the introduction of other supplementary feeds.

Only 25g of Crystalyx Extra High Energy provides the same intake of trace elements as 0.5lb of compound feed. Access to dry hay in mid and late-pregnancy is always beneficial.

Trials on commercial farms have shown that ewes regulate intakes of Crystalyx according to requirement – intakes increase in very wet weather and snow cover. But, Crystalyx never replaces forage; it complements and balances it.

The time of introduction of supplementary feeds in late pregnancy is dictated by forage quality and lamb burden.

The greater the expected lambing percentage and/or the poorer the quality of available forage, the earlier supplementary feeds should be introduced.

However, feeding Crystalyx can safely delay the need to introduce supplementary feeds – simply monitor Crystalyx intakes.

If the energy intake is adequate, Crystalyx intakes remain steady. But, when energy intake becomes tight Crystalyx intakes will increase.

Simply by monitoring the Crystalyx intake of your ewes, they will tell you when to either introduce or increase supplementary feeds.

Independent university research has shown that feeding Crystalyx can stimulate forage intakes by up to 13%; increase the rate of forage digestion by over 15%; and improve overall diet digestibility by up to 10%.

All this means your stock make the best possible use of your home-grown feeds.

Supplementing ewes with Crystalyx Extra high Energy costs only 3-6c/ewe/day and intakes average 30-70g/ewe/day – depending on breed and seasonal challenges.

This relatively low required intake means that Crystalyx blocks can last significantly longer than other ordinary mineral blocks. Click here for more information