Feeding early-lambing ewes the priority over the next few weeks

The priority over the next few weeks – for early-lambing flocks – should be feeding ewes good quality feed to meet their energy requirements.

Late-pregnancy feeding is vitally important to get right, to ensure that ewes are in good condition after lambing.

According to Teagasc, 75% of foetal growth occurs in the final seven weeks before lambing. Therefore, it is important that ewes are fed adequately to meet the demands of the growing foetus.

Furthermore, a forage-based diet won’t suffice in meeting these energy requirements. Therefore, concentrates should be offered.

However, the amount given depends on a number of factors such as: the number of lambs the ewe is carrying; the stage of pregnancy; the body condition score of the ewe; and the quality of silage being offered.

This table (below) outlines the amount of concentrates a ewe should be offered based on the number of lambs she is carrying and how many weeks she is away from lambing. The data assumes that the ewe is being fed silage of at least 70% dry matter digestibility (DMD) and has a body condition score of 3.0.

Data source: Teagasc

Space and water

As well as adequately feeding ewes during pregnancy, it is also important to make sure each ewe has enough space in the pen and to provide access to clean water.

According to Teagasc, a pregnant ewe will consume up to 6L of water per day – when the ewe is fed high-quality feed or is on an all-meal diet.

It is important to provide ewes with plenty of space in order to prevent overcrowding and stress, which can result in reduced performance.

Therefore, the maximum number of ewes – that weigh 70kg – to be fed in a standard pen 4.8m-wide pen is 10 (in late-pregnancy), according to Teagasc.

This table (below) outlines the trough space requirements for ewes of different weights.

Data source: Teagasc

In situations where ewes are being fed poor-quality silage of 60% DMD, it is advisable to feed an all-concentrate diet to meet their energy requirements.

However, it is important that farmers gradually change the diet they offer to their ewes in order to reduce the possibility of digestive upsets.