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Ewe nutrition during late pregnancy

6 October 2016

Producers are being reminded to carefully manage ewe nutrition throughout pregnancy, particularly during the last six to eight weeks, to ensure successful foetal growth and development.

Lamb survival and the ewes mothering ability is greatly affected by nutrition during the later stages of pregnancy, as a large amount of the ewes resources will be partitioned towards foetal growth, of which 70% will take place during the final 50 days.

“It’s key to remember that as lambs continue to grow in the uterus, they take up a greater proportion of body space, restricting the size of the ewe’s rumen. And as a result, their appetite can decrease by up to 30%,” says Bethany May ruminant nutritionist at Trident Feeds.

Therefore, in order to keep nutrient supply at an equal pace to foetal growth, producers should note the importance of increasing the nutrient density of the ration as the gestation period progresses.

However, feeding a diet high in cereals, particularly wheat, can very quickly upset the rumen, causing acidosis, depressing appetite and leading to lower birth weights, poor milk quality and ultimately affecting lamb growth rates.

“So, if you need to feed cereals to bolster the energy content of a ration you should ensure they’re fed as part of a balanced mixed ration, including a good amount of digestible fibre, such as sugar beet pulp,” adds Bethany.

Sugar beet feed has a slower rate of rumen fermentation in comparison with cereals, so the risk of digestive upset is reduced.  Dry matter intake is also stimulated and increased nutrients for milk production are provided, therefore aiding lamb growth rates.

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