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Don’t be deceived by flush looking grass

Changeable conditions with spikes in day time temperatures have led to unexpected levels of grass growth, resulting in a real ‘flush’ of grazing, but recent fresh grass analysis has shown that dry matter levels are consistently low.

Despite this late abundance of grass growth, which comes at an optimum time for flushing ewes’ pre tupping, don’t be deceived, warns David Thornton, Rumenco technical manager. “A ‘flush’ looking field is not necessarily representative of nutrient value, and ewes may be left lacking once the colder weather hits.

Mr Thornton says that dry matter content is the critical measure of the nutritional value of grazing, as ‘this is where all the nutrition is’. “Autumn grazing is usually low in dry matter, and recent analysis has confirmed that’s definitely the case this season.

“At this time, where many farmers are thinking about putting the tups in, it’s important to consider that a ewes’ demand for protein and energy increases, and meeting these requirements is key to good conception rates.

“But with low dry matter in autumn grazing, you can’t rely solely on this alone, If ewe diets are lacking in nutrition, especially energy, then they may not cycle properly, or hold to service,” he adds.

“They also need sufficient supplies of the trace elements cobalt and selenium as they are responsible for stimulating follicular activity, which results in egg production. Therefore, both trace elements and energy need to be readily available in the diet to ensure the right outcome of this important time in the sheep calendar.

“It’s important to maintain ewes at a body condition score (BCS) of between 2.5 and 3.5 (depending on breed and type), before, and during tupping.

“If ewes need to put on condition, increasing BCS by one unit requires approximately an extra 5MJ of energy intake per day,” says Mr Thornton. “Autumn grass alone may not be able to provide this level of energy, and if ewes need to put on condition, farmers should consider balancing out any deficiencies between ewe’s energy demands, and grazing supplies.

“Feed blocks provide a labour saving, cost effective, and self-regulating source of additional supplement which make up for grass nutritional deficiencies. With 12% protein, and 16 MJ ME/kg DM, MAXX Energy provides high rates of both protein and energy, as well as providing all the necessary trace elements. It has been specifically designed to complement ad-lib forage and grass based diets, and contains all the vital components needed in the right quantity to optimise ewe health and support foetal development at this time.

Mr Thornton concludes, “A proactive approach to ewe nutrition and being mindful of the nutrition in grass at this stage will pay-off in the long term, improving the number of ewes holding to first service and ultimately the total number of lambs on the ground.”