Rose Young BVM BVS MRCVS
Managing your ewes well through pregnancy will help ensure a productive and successful lambing season.
Ewes at tupping should be in good condition (minimum score 3 for lowland ewes and 2.5 for hill sheep) to go to ram, to ensure quality eggs are released for fertilisation. Once fertilised, the embryo takes around three weeks to implant in the uterus; during this period ewes are vulnerable to handling, stress and changes in nutrition. Ensure ewes are kept quiet and on an even plane of nutrition until at least three weeks after tups are removed.
Mid-pregnancy and scanning
After this initial risk period, ewes are very much less vulnerable to change and can safely lose no more than half a condition score during the second trimester of pregnancy. The aim in the 2nd trimester is to achieve appropriate placental development in preparation for later foetal growth. Mid pregnancy, 60-90d, is also the optimum time for scanning. Scanning ewes for lamb numbers is one of the key strategies in managing pregnant ewe nutrition. Scanning allows identification, separation and culling of barren animals before committing to feeding them through winter. It allows for ID of ewes carrying singles/twins/triplets and guides future feeding decisions. This minimises the risk of metabolic disease such as ketosis (twin lamb) in under-nourished ewes, lambing difficulties in fat ewes carrying large single lambs, and maximises colostrum quantity and quality.
Although with careful management it is possible to lamb ewes on grass/forage alone, many farms choose to provide extra energy and protein in the form of concentrates to ewes in the lead-up to lambing and during early lactation, especially in large, high-producing ewes. If quality and quantity of grass (eg. 4-8cm sward), forage (eg. high ME silage) and root/brassicas (eg. swedes/rape) are not available, concentrates will meet requirements.
AHDB provide some great, free resources; the below table from their booklet “Improving Ewe Nutrition” is a guideline to ewe energy and protein requirements around lambing.
The booklet features information on feeding strategies and ration calculations; PDF is available to download for free from their website which has a wealth of information on many aspects of beef, lamb and arable production.
Contact your vets now for further info on scanning services, nutritional advice and best ways to manage metabolic disease and early lactation