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Don’t underestimate ewes’ nutritional needs as we head into winter

With tupping well under-way for many, and with some flocks already heading towards early lambing, it is easy to underestimate your flock’s nutritional needs during the winter months.

David Thornton, Rumenco technical manager, warns that careful nutritional management is vital to maximise the 2016 lamb crop.

“Grass will grow in temperatures over 6.5oC, so with the recent warm day time temperatures, grass will still be growing, and a fresh leafy sward is likely to be sufficient in protein. But, this may lead to conclusions that no additional nutrition is required.

“However, all our recent grass samples suggest dry matter content (DM) is only around 20%, which means around 80% is water. So effectively, ewes are eating a lot of stomach filling material, 80% of which has no nutritional value. Consequently, supplementary nutrition is going to be vital this season. There is a need to ensure ewes receive enough energy, as we can’t rely on the 20% DM to provide enough nutrition, especially as we head into the winter months.

“Another issues we’re seeing this season, along with consistently low DM, is deficiencies of trace elements, and especially cobalt and selenium.

“Cobalt tends to be deficient in the UK regardless of grass quality, and it is the most important trace element around the tupping and early pregnancy period.

“You only get one shot to influence your future lamb crop, and it is now, during the two month period either side of tupping. After tupping you can only lose lambs, not increase them.

“I would recommend introducing supplementary nutrition with a real focus on energy and trace elements during tupping, and then continuing this through into the first trimester to build solid foundations for a successful 2016 lamb crop.”