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Sheep Nutrition – Considerations for the pregnant Ewe

Andy Adler BVM&S MBA PGCert Vet Ed MRCVS Molecare Farm Vets

During pregnancy the main focus should be on ensuring consistent and efficient nutrition is provided to ewes, to both encourage the growth and development of the lambs, as well as their own milk production and body condition ready to support the lambs after birth.

In order to best assess the nutrition of your sheep, a plan for grazing and having your forage analysed will enable you to identify any feed supplements that need to be added to the diet. You can also speak with your local farm nutritionist to formulate the appropriate rations for the pregnancy to ensure the optimum nutrition levels in your flock.

To maximise ewe health and lamb survival, we would suggest that the following factors are considered over the next couple of months.

Body Condition Score

Lowland flocks should aim for a score of 3.0-3.5 at lambing. An under-nourished ewe will have a lower lamb birthweight which directly impacts survival and increases the risk of conditions such as pregnancy toxaemia. Whereas over-conditioned ewes can have problems with lambing such as prolapse, reduced lamb vigour and a weaker ewe/lamb bond.

Feed changes

Ewes should have constant access to forage whether inside or outside, with any changes to the forage made slowly over a few days to protect the rumen bugs. Once concentrates are being fed they should be provided at a consistent time and volume to maintain a healthy rumen. When housing – introduce forage before to minimise risk of Hypocalcaemia.

Winter Shearing

This should be done at least 8 weeks pre-lambing.

Balance of Energy and Protein in the last 2 months of pregnancy

Most mammary gland development occurs in the last month of pregnancy and getting the right balance of energy and protein will allow optimum colostrum production.

Providing ewes with the best nutrition during this period will allow them to produce healthy vigorous lambs, and allow the ewes to give the best support to their lambs during the crucial early stages of life.

For more information, or to discuss pregnancy nutrition in more detail, please contact your local vet or Mole Valley Nutritionist.

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