Supporting ewe nutrition pre and post lambing leads to heavier lambs at weaning

Written by William Kellett from Agriland

Sheep producers looking to maximise weaning weights and lifetime performance for this lambing season, should adopt a combo supplement protocol for colostrum quality pre-lambing and milk production post-lambing, said Dr. Alison Bond, nutritionist for Rumenco.

In a farm trial overseen by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), lambs born from ewes supplemented with Lifeline Lamb and Ewe six weeks before lambing and then transitioned to Rumevite Graze DUP for four weeks post-lambing, grew 50g/day faster from birth than controls, with a 4.2kg advantage at weaning.

Taking in account supplement costs, this yields a return on investment of £14.28 in a set of twins.

The significant increase in lamb performance is due to critical areas in ewe nutrition being met with strategic supplementation during periods of high nutrient demand.

Foetal growth​

“In the last six weeks of pregnancy, over 70% of foetal growth occurs. For context, a lamb weighing 4.5kg at birth only weighs 800g in the eight weeks prior to being born,” explained Dr. Bond.

“It has a huge amount of growth and development to do in a very short space of time to get to a lamb ready for birth.

This puts a lot of stress on the ewe and pulls large amounts of nutrients from her diet and therefore increases her requirements for energy and protein – doubling for those carrying twins.”

During this time, the udder also develops and the feeding regime influences colostrum quality.

According to Dr. Bond, feeding Lifeline Lamb and Ewe in that critical six week window pre-lambing not only ensures protein and energy demands are being met for foetal development, but also boosts colostrum quality.

“Feeding a well-balanced, energy and quality protein bucket including minerals, vitamins and trace elements during this rapid period of foetal development can significantly increase immuno-globulin levels in the colostrum,” said Dr. Bond.

Immunoglobulin content is an important measure of colostrum quality that infers passive immunity to disease in young lambs.

In independent trial work by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), feeding innovatively balanced energy plus protein lick including minerals, vitamins and trace elements pre-lambing was found to increase colostrum immunoglobulin content by 25% more than a standard energy bucket.

“Healthier lambs have increased feed intake and growth rate, show improved early vigour and general health, thrive and are potentially less likely to suffer from conditions such as coccidiosis, hypothermia and mis-mothering,” concluded Dr. Bond.

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