‘Going in early with meal, if silage quality is poor, key to avoiding BCS loss’

Going in with concentrates in time, if silage quality is poor or if some ewes are on the thin side or both, is vital when it comes to avoiding loss of condition in late pregnancy, according to Michael Gottstein, of Teagasc.

Michael was speaking recently on the Teagasc Ovicast podcast where he discussed a number of topics in relation to managing and feeding ewes in late pregnancy.

Here’s what he had to say in relation to managing ewes and avoiding body condition loss during this period: “It’s important that we don’t lose a lot of body condition because it’s very hard to put back on in late-pregnancy.

“Going in, in time, is really important with concentrates. If you have silage that is 60-65% DMD, that is fairly poor quality, then ewes are more than likely going to lose body condition as they approach eight weeks out from lambing and for triplet-bearing ewes, a little bit before that even.

Going in with a small bit of meal [200-300g/day] to those ewes at that stage will keep them up and it’ll help to prevent that body condition loss.

“It’s not that you’re feeding a huge amount more meal, you’re just feeding the meal over a longer period of time rather than cramming in meal in the last five-to-six weeks of pregnancy to make up for ewes that are thin.

“At that stage [five-to-six weeks out from lambing] no matter how much you feed the ewes, it’s very hard to put condition on them in late-pregnancy. A lot of the feed at that stage is going towards the lambs rather than helping to put condition on the ewe.

“And, in reality, feeding thin ewes a lot of concentrates a few weeks out from lambing, because you haven’t started feeding them on time, will result in big lambs and thin ewes and that’s what we are trying to avoid.

“Work carried out has shown that ewes that lose a lot of body condition are at a higher risk of losing their lambs.

“The take-home message is, find out how good a quality your silage is and start feeding concentrates in time if your silage is of poor quality or if ewes are a bit thin.”