Breeding season has begun on some sheep farms across the country. For others, the focus is on sourcing new breeding stock but nutrition must be remembered in order to maximise the number of lambs born next Spring. Nutrition influences ewe productivity at all stages. Both underfeeding or overfeeding can potentially have a negative effect on ewe productivity so it is important to have an understanding of your flocks nutrient requirements.
Body condition scoring (BCS) is a manual assessment of the muscle and fat cover over the spine, behind the last rib in the loin area of the sheep. The system is based on a five-point scoring system (scores 1–5, extremely thin to overfat), it allows farmers to feed accordingly depending on BCS and the time of year.
A correct body condition score of 3.5 at breeding is important for fertility, with ovulation rates reduced by 45% for every one unit in BCS (AHDB, 2018). Ensuring ewes are the correct BCS at mating is the priority, with flushing being a secondary tool for those that fail to hit the targets. Ewes in the correct condition have good ovulation rates that will not be improved by a further rise in the level of nutrition.
In periods of high nutrient demand, or when poor quality forage is offered, there is a need to offer supplementary feeds to meet the energy and protein requirements of the ewe. Using high quality meal alongside conserved forage such as silage or hay will prove cheaper as less is required and nutrient use efficiency will be improved within the rumen.
The compound feed or meal must have a higher energy density than the forage with which it will be fed. As a rule of thumb, it should be 11 MJ/kg DM (11 ME) or more. To achieve this level of energy, cereals are likely to be a key ingredient. Protein is the second most important factor to consider after energy. The level of protein is important but the source of protein is critical. There needs to be a good balance of Rumen degradable protein (RDP) and Digestible undegradable protein (DUP).
The ingredients determine the protein percentage of the overall compound. For example, an 18% protein compound containing 10% soya would provide far more DUP than a 20% protein feed, where the main protein source is rapeseed meal. Feed quality is key.
Drummonds has a strong reputation for the performance of our Ewe rations and nuts. We have developed a number of winning rations over the years and the palatability and consistency of our ewe feeds and lamb creep and finisher rations is unequalled.
For more information please speak directly with your Drummonds Technical Sales Advisor.
Article written by: Bill Reilly, Drummonds Technical Sales Advisor Mob: 086 - 061 2901