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Don’t rely on grass post-tupping

The importance of balancing ewe nutrition in the early stages of pregnancy must not be underestimated, farmers are advised.

The quality and quantity of grazing available, at this time of year is not likely to be able to support ewe nutritional requirements alone, and will only continue to decline, explains David Thornton, Rumenco technical manager.

“Poor-nutrition post tupping can play a significant role, not only in a ewe’s ability to hold to first service, but also to lamb foetal health and development. During the early stages of pregnancy, under nutrition has been proven to significantly affect brain development and lamb birth rates.

“Maintaining a body condition score of between two and three throughout the winter months is key,” says Mr Thornton.

“Under-nutrition at this stage can’t be made good later in pregnancy by catch-up feeding with concentrates, so supporting ewes nutrition at this time is advised. It’s important to ensure ewes are receiving a balanced diet that meets all their requirements.”

Mr Thornton recommends a daily intake containing between 11 and 12 MJ of metabolisable energy (ME) during the first month post-tupping. “At this stage, a supplementary lick is more than adequate to support grazing and ensure the ewe is getting a balanced nutritional intake. However, the benefit of feeding ewes extra concentrates during early pregnancy is negligible, as nutritional requirements of the foetus are relatively minimal.

“Though, ewe diets must contain a quality source of vitamins, minerals and trace element that can often be lacking in grazing at this time of year, as well as sufficient energy and protein levels, to ensure they don’t lose condition.”

The initial period post-tupping is when ewes are most at risk from embryo losses as the egg is not yet attached to the uterus, explains Mr Thornton. “Stress induced, when ewes loose condition during the winter, and therefore require a quick change in their diet can impact embryo survival and placental development.

“Limiting stress to the ewe at this vulnerable stage, by ensuring they have a balanced diet is important, and can be achieved through the use of lick supplements.

“Licks will help maintain body condition, supporting grazing, and ultimately aiding reproductive success with the successful implantation of the egg, and helping with lamb health and vigour at birth,” he says.

Using a lick supplement such as Maxx Energy, that is fortified with vital dietary components, is a method to guarantee ewes have ready access to an adequate source of nutrition to bolster forage based diets and maintain performance post-tupping.

“These licks are different to others available from Rumenco,” explains Mr Thornton. “The hardened formulation of Maxx licks has been specifically designed to maximise digestible energy, whilst boosting nutritional intakes.

“As a low moisture, high dry matter lick, sheep don’t consume the supplement as fast as other buckets, and the slower volume of intake means the better the utilisation of forage.”

Each bucket is formulated to include 16 MJ of ME per kg DM, as well as 20 mg per kg of cobalt, 10 mg per kg of selenium and 600 mg per kg of vitamin E.

“Maxx Energy contains all the vital components needed, in the right quantity, to optimise ewe health and support foetal development at this time.

“This will not only help in the initial stages of pregnancy, but also ensure ewes are in good condition to come through the challenges of the winter well,” he says.

The inclusion of a supplementary feed product, is a cost effective solution for farmers to effectively manage intakes and boost performance. “A proactive approach to ewe nutrition 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,” adds Mr Thornton.