Tips for feeding and managing ewes for lambing success

Tips for feeding and managing ewes for lambing success

Nutrition performs a basic function in profitable sheep breeding and might make the best distinction in relation to preventative well being administration and flock productiveness – for each the ewe and her offspring.

Below, Poppy Frater, sheep and grassland specialist at SAC Consulting, talks by means of among the key feeding and administration rules and physique situation rating (BCS) targets – from weaning to early lactation – for lambing success.

See additionally: How to budget and allocate rotational grazing for ewes

Weaning to tupping

Goal: Prepare ewes for manufacturing

BCS goal: 3-3.5

The focus at this stage must be getting as many ewes as potential in goal situation.

For lowland and upland flocks the goal BCS must be 3-3.5. This is the best time to construct situation because the ewes have weaned their lambs, so we’re not asking an excessive amount of of them.

It can be the interval when the farmer can exert most affect on ovulation fee and scanning share.

Both these elements are subsequently affected by short-term and long-term vitamin.

Short-term vitamin focuses on the lead-up to tupping, and flushing – the place ewes are placed on a excessive airplane of vitamin – can be utilized within the six weeks as much as tupping time.

However, the flushing response could be very a lot depending on the ewe situation rating. If ewes begin off lean after which get flushed, they’re extra prone to ovulate.

But this implies farmers find yourself with lean ewes carrying a number of lambs, which they might wrestle to carry till full time period.

In truth, the administration of ewes as much as six months pre-mating has been proven to affect ovulation fee.

Practically, which means that ewes beneath BCS 2 at weaning are inclined to have a decrease scanning share. So, a extra sustainable observe is to preserve their longer-term vitamin.

Either aspect of tupping is named the “golden 20 days” and maximising the standard of vitamin throughout this time will affect productiveness.


0-50 days

Goal: Maintain situation for optimum embryo survival

BCS goal: Maintain at 3-3.5

This is the time implantation happens (about day 19). It is necessary to minimise stress and any administration/vitamin modifications till post-implantation (34 days).

Fortunately, the power and protein demand throughout this time is comparatively low, so typically no change is required. Ultimately, we simply need ewes to take care of situation.

50-100 days

Goal: Optimise placenta progress and growth

BCS goal: Above-target ewes may cut back by 0.5

By this stage, the ewe is sort of resilient, and the egg is properly implanted.

During this time, the placenta must be creating effectively, and that is when ewes are often scanned.

Ewes must be condition-scored at scanning. Any thinner inventory must be separated and put with ewes carrying triplets, and any match twin-bearing ewes put with these carrying single lambs.

This will guarantee there are as many ewes at goal BCS as potential within the lead-up to lambing time.

During mid-pregnancy the power and protein demand remains to be comparatively low, so once more the purpose must be to take care of situation.

100-150 days

Goal: Ensure ewes are match and wholesome forward of lambing

BCS goal: Maintaining BCS is most crucial at this stage

This stage consists of the “golden 35 days” when there may be the best alternative to affect lamb survival.

Energy requirement shoots up within the ultimate few weeks of gestation. As such you will need to contemplate forage alternative rigorously to make sure these calls for are being met.

For instance, straw is unlikely to satisfy necessities and loads of supplementary feeding could be wanted to offer a balanced weight loss plan.

Ensuring you might be offering best-quality forage will assist cut back the size of time it’s essential to complement for.

Maintaining BCS at this stage is significant – underfeeding is prone to have a knock-on impact on colostrum manufacturing and subsequent lamb vigour.


Goal: Maximise milk manufacturing and lamb progress

BCS goal: Minimise situation losses

Milk ranges peak at about 4 weeks post-lambing earlier than beginning to decline.

Until this level, lamb consumption may be met with ewe milk, however from right here, progress will exceed what may be supplied and offspring will begin to eat extra grass/creep.

It is necessary to keep in mind that ewe milk is prone to be the very best power feed lambs will ever obtain, so maximising their efficiency throughout this time will actually assist to get them off to the very best begin.

During early lactation, poor feeding and low ewe BCS are threat elements for teat lesions for mastitis. While the most cost effective and most rumen-friendly feed is grass, supplementing may be useful if grazing heights are beneath 4cm.

Advice on ewe situation scoring

Best observe for physique situation scoring (BCS) of ewes entails feeling the fats cowl alongside the vertebrae and the quick ribs alongside the ewe’s again, says SAC’s Poppy Frater.

As a rule of thumb, in the event you can simply really feel beneath the quick ribs, that is a sign that the ewe is lower than a BCS of three.

She advises visiting the AHDB Knowledge Library for extra data:

Supplementing forage

The desk beneath provides an instance of how you can calculate supplementation necessities.


  • A 70kg ewe carrying twins, three weeks pre-lambing
  • Feeding good silage (10.5MJ/kg dry matter (DM))
  • Supplementing with focus (86% DM, 12.5MJ/kg DM)

Nutrition necessities


Metabolisable power (ME) required =

15.3MJ/day (based mostly on steering from AHDB’s Feeding the Ewe information)

Dry matter (DM) consumption from silage =

70kg (ewe weight) x 1.4 ÷ 100 = 0.98kg

ME from silage =

0.98 x 10.5 (silage high quality) = 10.29MJ

ME wanted from focus =

15.3 – 10.29 = 5MJ (power deficit)

Concentrate DM =

5 ÷ 12.5 (focus ME) = 0.4kg

Concentrate (freshweight) =

0.4 x 100 ÷ 86 = 0.47kg freshweight focus must be fed

Source: Poppy Frater

Poppy Frater was talking at a webinar on minimising losses at lambing hosted by SAC Consulting – a part of Scotland’s Rural College.

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