Nutrition for ewe key to lamb viability

Managing ewe nutrition in late pregnancy will influence lamb viability and lamb vigour, according to Teagasc researcher Frank Campion.

Dr Campion has advised sheep farmers that careful management of animal feed in the six to eight weeks pre-lambing will also boost overall performance of the flock at lambing.

“Planning and management decisions as far back as mating will influence the performance of the flock at lambing and particular care is needed to ensure that ewes are lambing down in correct body condition and receive adequate high quality protein in the weeks prior to lambing,” he said.

Dr Campion told farmers attending the Teagasc National Sheep Conference that having grass supplies available at lambing time will reduce stress and work load at lambing while also ensuring that there are no checks in flock performance through inadequate nutrition or extended periods indoors post-lambing.

“Planning nutrition will influence the performance of the flock at lambing and particular care is needed to ensure ewes are lambing down in correct BCS, following an appropriate late gestation nutrition plan to ensure adequate quantities of colostrum are available to the lamb,” he said.

“Where colostrum supply is below requirement then action needs to be taken very quickly.”

Michael Gottstein, head of Teagasc’s sheep knowledge transfer department, outlined strategies for coping with the extra lambs produced in highly prolific flocks. He spoke about some of the practical labour-saving strategies for managing surplus lambs. To maximise profitability flock owners should aim to wean more than 1.7 lambs per ewe.

John Doyle, a Co Wexford farmer in the Teagasc Better Farm Sheep Programme, spoke about growing more grass on his farm and how tackling soil fertility was the first step for him towards achieving that goal.

He said that dividing fields into grazing paddocks was essential to utilise the extra grass and advised the farmers attending the conference that lambs should be moved to fresh grass every three to four days.

The Teagasc Hill Sheep Conference takes place in Killarney on February 8.


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