Feeding management of ewes always places emphasis on the flushing and late pregnancy periods, with little thought given to the mid-pregnancy period (months two and three).
While the 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 and poor placental development will result in low birth-weight lambs with a poor will to survive – irrespective of late-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 the 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.
The benefits of using 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.
This is especially the case 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 half a pound 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, with intakes increasing in very wet weather and snow cover.
But Crystalyx never replaces forage – it complements and balances it.
The timing of introduction of supplementary feeds in late-pregnancy is dictated by forage quality and litter size.
The greater the expected lambing percentage and/or the poorer the quality of available forage, the earlier supplementary feeds should be introduced.
But feeding Crystalyx can safely delay the need to introduce supplementary feeds by simply monitoring 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 Crystalyx intakes 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 per ewe per day with intakes averaging between 30-70g depending on breed and seasonal challenges.
This relatively low required intake means that Crystalyx blocks can last significantly longer than other ordinary mineral blocks.