Correct concentrate formulations make for improved lamb crops

April 8, 2020

For sheep farmers across the country the new year signifies the start of the sheep farming cycle all over again. The rams have done their job and its time for scanning to tell just how plentiful this year’s crop of lambs is shaping up to be. Post scanning, it is time to think about how to ensure ewes perform to their best potential in the run up to lambing providing their lambs with the greatest start possible. Providing ewes with top quality nutrition both pre and post lambing is a crucial aspect of management during this period explains Lorna Shaw sales nutritionist with Davidson’s Animal Feeds.

During the final 6 weeks in the run up to lambing, the ewe’s rumen space is reduced due to her growing lambs leading to a potential 30% reduction in feed intake. Therefore, it is crucial that the concentrate is of a high quality when the quantity she can eat is reduced. Providing a concentrate containing high quality protein sources such as soya ensures a good level of digestible undegradable protein (DUP) which is more available to the ewe helping to promote foetal growth and milk quality/quantity. An inclusion of a good quality fibre source such as beet pulp will also provide a vital energy source for the ewe helping to maintain body condition during lactation. This has also shown to reduce prolapses promoting better lifetime performance of the ewe.

Alongside quality raw materials a high specification vitamin and mineral pack is also vital in a good compound feed . With Vitamins A, E and B12 alongside selenium being some of the most crucial to the ewe and her growing lambs. Please see table below:

Vitamin

Function

Vitamin A

Required to promote lamb vitality, prevent “night blindness” and for ewe immunity this is important as ewe’s immunity levels are reduced during pregnancy.

Vitamin E

Works as an antioxidant to prevent development of disease through the prevention of free radicals. Vitamin E is vital for pregnant ewes in order to promote birth weight and lamb vigour helping lambs to quicker stand and suck post birth.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is synthesised by rumen microbes allowing adequate levels of the vitamin to the ewe. However, if cobalt levels are low this can lead to B12 deficiency leading to a reduced appetite and reduced milk production. B12 is crucial for ewes at lambing when appitite is already suppressed. This is particularly important to ensure lambs are born with a good B12 status as they are not yet able to synthesise the vitamin until the rumen is fully formed.

Selenium

Selenium works alongside vitamin E to promote immunity, growth and development. Selenium is also passed from the mother to foetus to ensure a good selenium status to the lamb at birth. Selenium provided as selenised yeast is more bioavailable further enhancing selenium status of both the ewe and her lambs.

By playing close attention to concentrate formulation and raw materials looking at raw materials and vitamin specification of the ewe feed we can aim to improve ewe health and ensure more live lambs during lambing. Increasing concentrate feed specification will incur a cost to the farm. Breaking this down moving a spec up usually costs around an additional £1/Head over the course of 12 weeks in extra feed cost. However, by promoting ewe health, lamb vigour, birth weight and milk quality we can better improve lamb and ewe health in long run. Increasing live lambs by 2% in a 500 ewe flock scanning 170% would mean an extra 17 lambs to the value of £1,020. Based on a lamb valued £60 at sale.

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