UFAC-UK is advising farmers to pay close attention to the nutrition of ewes and rams this autumn to achieve an optimum body condition score (BCS) at tupping and ensuring that everything is set up correctly for successful pregnancies and births.
The focus should ultimately be on the number of lambs sold, rather than the number born, and special attention should be given to ram and ewe nutrition to maximise fertility and to make sure they have sufficient energy, the correct fatty acids and protein in their diets.
“The condition of both the ewe and ram are crucial, so completing health checks, nutrition and body-scoring will all have a positive effect on the number of lambs born and that is ultimately sold,” explained Mike Chown, ruminant technical manager at UFAC-UK.
Achieving bodyweight targets at mating is critical, aiming for an optimum BCS score of 3 for ewes while taking into account some differentials between hill and lowland ewes.
“Hill ewes may have a slightly lower BCS, but all ewes should have a minimum BCS score of 2.5. Anything below this, needs feeding up,” added Mr Chown.
He advised a BCS of 3.5 to 4 for rams, and that they are on good quality, high-energy, 18% protein diet for two months prior to tupping, as this is when sperm maturation takes place. Also, farmers should remove any excess wool from around the scrotum and testicles to keep them cool.
Rams should be fed the essential polyunsaturated long-chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in the protein supplement along with high levels of selenium to increase the vitality and mobility of the sperm.
“In ewes, these essential omega 3 fatty acids support the production of progesterone, the hormone responsible for the nourishment and maintenance of the embryo, thus improving viability and reducing early embryonic losses,” he added.
The supplementation of flushing diets with omega 3 supplements improves reproductive performance with improved lambing percentage and weaning rates.
Mr Chown added, “These specific omega 3 fatty acids are also considered as important modulators of immune functions. Soon after lambing, the fatty acids enhance the immunity of the ewe and aid in the regeneration of the reproductive tissues in readiness for rebreeding.
“In late gestation, the fatty acids also play a vital role in brain and eye development, which again aids lamb survival and growth rates.”
With the latest grass updates showing growth rates to be following the six-year average, Mtr Chown believes that there is nothing to be concerned about but stresses that farmers must be aware of any imbalance in minerals or trace elements.
“Over-supplying nutrients can be as damaging as any undersupply, so always discuss with your nutritionist,” he said.
Omega 3 EPA and DHA fatty acids deliver key benefits, improving prolificacy and encouraging more multiple lamb births. With increased conception rates and enhanced lamb survivability, ultimately leads to more lambs sold.
“Feeding 10-15 grams per head per day of UFAC Promega will improve the health of ewes and lambs, improving ewe longevity and reducing the number of barren ewes,” he said.