Advice for the last couple of months before lambing

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“Lambing time is not a dress rehearsal,” says John Naylor of Northumbrian Quality Feeds (NQF), “the more you can safeguard performance of ewes going forward, the better margins you will receive from the lambs.”

With lambing time just around the corner now is the time to think ahead about the feeding of your ewes.  Here John, the General Manager at NQF,  gives some advice to beat the nutritional challenges in the last few weeks before lambing.  At this time of year, the ewe is under immense pressure, and under huge metabolic stress; not only does she need to cater for her rapidly developing foetus(s), but there are also significant changes to the udder and immune system are taking place.

There are a number of steps which can be taken to help overcome these challenges:

Group sheep according to their requirements

The ideal is to scan all ewes to determine lamb numbers and target feeding.  Single baring ewes for example may need very little supplementation, whilst triplet bare ewes will require close attention.  Ewe lambs and gimmers should also ideally be grouped separately.

Body condition all ewes

This should be done at least 6 weeks prior to lambing with target Body Condition Score (BCS) for a lowland ewe 3.0, grouping of ewes can then be modified based on BCS.

Have forage sources analysed

Forages can vary widely, for example the best quality hay can be equivalent to clamp silage; conversely the worst quality hay can be the equivalent to straw.  Knowing forage quality allows for planning ration formulation in late pregnancy.

Select concentrate feeding for late pregnancy

It is important that at this stage pre lambing, that the concentrate should balance the forage both in terms of energy and protein.

Blood sample to assess diet adequacy – ‘ask the sheep what they think’

There are long established procedures for blood sampling ewes in late pregnancy to assess their nutritional status before lambing. This sampling must be carried out by your local vet.

Sample 3-4 weeks before the start of lambing

Sample scanned ewes at least 5 ewes in each group (triplets, twins etc)

Sample results from the ewe will reflect energy status, protein (Urea N and Albumin) and major minerals suggesting whether the diet is working as planned.  Any adjustments to the diet can then be made to match the pregnant ewes’ requirements.  This should help reduce potential problems of late pregnancy or early lactation.

As part of their on-going services to sheep farmers NQF provide this system as part of a number of services.  In addition to both conventional and organic feed, NQF’s base at Easington near Belford also supplies mineral, feed blocks and liquid feeds. It is the only feed company in the county with its own compound feed plant, producing a range of nuts, rolls, pellets, mixtures and blends.

Anyone interested in receiving any further information about products can contact John Naylor on 07816 213801 or Nikki Gilbertson Sales Feed Advisor on 07595 313040.