£1/Ewe – What is it Worth?

December 21, 2017

At this time of year scanning will begin and the countdown to lambing really does get started. Most ewes seem to be in good condition. Keeping them fit, healthy and in peak condition to enable them to produce plentiful quality colostrum and milk supply to nurse two lambs will be the challenge going forward.

This winter has seen a huge shift away from energy blocks being available on hill units to feeding from a quad and snacker. Taking a tonne of energy blocks at £800 would equate to approximately 4,000kg of compound rolls in money terms. Feeding 0.3kg per day per ewe of a good quality, fully mineralised 12.8 ME ewe feed, along with average forage would give the hill ewe enough of the required minerals and energy to keep her in good health and condition until nearer the 8th week prior to lambing. Feeding 0.3kg would equate to 12,000 drops of feed for the equivalent of a tonne of blocks. So for those hill units that can utilise a quad and snacker huge savings could be made under this method.

At Davidsons Animal Feeds our aim is to continuously improve animal performance and efficiency and this year sees a change to our 20% protein Super Ewe product. This was designed in conjunction with the SAC and was specifically targeted at the 3/4 weeks pre- lambing. The formulation in the past has been based on soya, beet pulp and barley. This winter the formulation will see a change to soya, maize and beet pulp based, so not only does it contain the best DUP protein source from hipro soya, it now has bypass starch from the maize and the best fibre and sugars from beet pulp. The super ewe feed will now provide the highest metabolic energy of all the ewe products available on the market.

As lambing only happens annually, we only get one chance to get the nutrition pre-lambing correct. At Davidsons, we advise that great care and attention is taken to looking and comparing the compound ewe formulations available on the market. When purchasing rams or females, farmers study these animals in great detail and a similar close inspection process should be made of the ewe feed formulations.

Forage analysis has shown that those farms who managed to get an early June cut have some particularly good material. Unfortunately, those cutting later than this have found forage particularly poor quality. Interestingly, during the year whilst analysing the trace elements of forage, it has been found that many essential vitamins and minerals have been very low, probably due to the volume of rain, and in a year where there has been almost a four fold increase in some mineral costs, particular attention should be made when looking at formulations for the levels of such essential vitamins and minerals. At Davidsons our top ewe rations contain levels of 150mg kg of Vitamin E, 10,000iu/kg Vitamin A 20,000iu/kg Vitamin D Selenium 1.8mg/kg part of which is as Selplex protected Selenium Yeast.

Vitamins A, D and in particular Vitamin E and Selenium together play a major role in the well being of the in-lamb ewe and the viability and vigour in the new born lambs. So despite the higher prices for these vitamins we have kept with the highest specifications.

Below is an example of a feed plan for twin bearing ewes based on three differently priced ewe rations in £10 increments, all being fed at the same rates. With the amount between the first and third feed being £20/tonne the actual price per ewe difference over a 3 month period only equates to around £1 per ewe or 50p per lamb. In nutrition terms, that extra cost in ration formulation provides so much more quality raw materials which gains a huge increase in metabolic energy to the ration being used. This helps gain increased quality colostrum and milk, reduce the risk of twin lamb, reduce lamb fatalities, reduce prolapse, get more lambs out the pets pen and set on to single bearing mothers. With some cast ewes being valued at around £100 or almost half a tonne of feed, paying for that extra bit of increased quality nutrition can lead to huge savings and a much more profitable sheep unit.

Cost pence per day Cost pence per week
£/Tonne £/Tonne
Weeks to Lamb Feed (kg) 240 230 220 240 230 220
12 0.3 0.072 0.069 0.066 0.504 0.483 0.462
11 0.3 0.072 0.069 0.066 0.504 0.483 0.462
10 0.3 0.072 0.069 0.066 0.504 0.483 0.462
9 0.3 0.072 0.069 0.066 0.504 0.483 0.462
8 0.5 0.12 0.115 0.110 0.84 0.805 0.77
7 0.5 0.12 0.115 0.110 0.84 0.805 0.77
6 0.5 0.12 0.115 0.110 0.84 0.805 0.77
5 0.75 0.18 0.173 0.165 1.26 1.21 1.16
4 0.75 0.18 0.173 0.165 1.26 1.21 1.16
3 1 0.24 0.230 0.220 1.68 1.61 1.54
2 1 0.24 0.230 0.220 1.68 1.61 1.54
1 1 0.24 0.230 0.220 1.68 1.61 1.54
Total cost per ewe £12.10 £11.59 £11.09
Total cost per lamb £6.05 £5.80 £5.54

Contact your Davidsons feed adviser who can give advice on a balanced feed ration for the forage you have available, along with a planned feed programme leading into lambing and beyond.

Steven Turnbull

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