The EWE, feeding issues and pretty much the whole story!
Ewe production generally is uppermost on producers minds during Mating, Lambing, Weaning. Three short periods totalling 150 days over the whole 12 months.! In fact, the three periods are generally the only real times for concern or intervention, however, the EWE is the driving force in productivity and should always remain high on the "thought" list. All producers who manage sheep have a large investment which, like all investments can be very rewarding if managed correctly and efficiently through quality strategies.
Generally feed represents the single largest ongoing cost, the ewe's requirements never remain static they always change, sometimes, week by week. What and how much a ewe consumes is dependent on quite a few factors and variables, things like, age, weight, body score, stage of production, environment factors, climate, exercise etc. The good thing is, a wide variety of feedstuffs can meet the nutritional needs during different production cycles and cost factors.
Lets think of the production cycle of the ewe in time periods of 50 days, called, Trimesters. They are;
Often the least managed part of the whole shebang. Preparation, planning? Understanding some of the physiological demands can often lead to planning and simple techniques can make a huge difference, Flushing for example can really make a difference to conception figures and tighten lambing patterns. Flushing the ewe so she is gaining weight 2 weeks before breeding works really well on thinner ewes or below 3 CS. Flushing can increase lambing percentages by increasing the number of eggs shed during ovulation Flushing also works more effectively early in the breeding season, but will also be effective late in the season. Mature ewes respond better than maidens to flushing, but, there is still an advantage feeding the younger group. You can flush the ewe by feeding 250-500 grams of quality grain per day, Lupin/ Oat mixtures tend to work really well because of the low starch. Always make sure you supply Minerals and Vitamins that are crucial to the time period.
If flushing is continued during the breeding season it will also have an effect and may enhance embryo survival (less returns). Try to stay away from highly productive legume dominant pastures during this time, such as Lucerne, Clovers (especially the red ones) and some of the trefoil varieties, these may delay oestrus, Barley can also contain compounds with oestrogenic activity . Oestrogenic compounds are present in varying degrees and concentrations in most legume plants during the entire growing season, but not when the plants are mature and dry.
Early and Mid- Gestation is a critical time because placental development occurs from day 30 to day 90 of gestation. Placental size and weight affects nutrient transfer between the ewe and her foetuses. Critical time for embryo survival . Underdeveloped placentas result in lower birth weights regardless of late gestation nutrition. 21 days of gross underfeeding or 80 days of moderate underfeeding will affect placental development. Balanced feeding and total nutrition inputs are required at specific levels, this is a very important part of ewe production and ultimately impacts on lambing and weaning percentages and survival.
This most difficult time of gestation for predicting feed requirements because so much depends on how many foetuses the ewe is carrying, scanning is a must!.
Under feeding will result in the birth of small and often as not, unviable lambs. Often these small lambs are less resistant to cold stress and will often have low birth to weaning growth rates and indifferent feed conversion efficiency. Most of the ewes mammary gland development occurs during this time of late gestation, so underfeeding will reduce the ewes capacity for yield and quality of milk. Big lambs then have a higher mortality and increased growth problems, rarely reaching production weight targets.
The nutrients that are vitally important during this phase are energy, protein, calcium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin e (vitamin a is vital if lambing onto dry feed or periods of drought.
The amount of energy depends on foetus numbers, cold stress, rain, wind etc. Winter lambing ewes usually cannot consume enough forage to meet energy needs, so, more energy is required 2 weeks prior to lambing. Ewes that carry single lambs generally don't receive grain as early as those carrying twins.
Lots to think about and usually not too much time to do it. Feeding supplements needs some pretty tight protocols, Compass Feeds has a Lambing, Mating, Care strategy posted on the website at www.compassfeeds.com.au which has a step by step guide through these events. Compass Feeds has specifically manufactured products for these areas of production, with the primary responsibility for nutrient supplementation going to Magforce, this highly available magnesium products has readily available sources of nutrients including Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamins A, D and E as well as Sulphur, Manganese, Iodine vitamin B1 and a host of others specifically designed for the three trimesters of pregnancy.
Look for our posting on The Lambing Process coming soon to www.compassfeeds.com.au