Most sheep units will be looking to scan ewes and batching them into lots depending on their litter size.

Going into the back end, sheep seemed to be in good condition and came to the tup quickly with initial scanning results favourable.

Hopefully, most farm units have had their winter forage stocks analysed to understand their feed value and what is required to balance the overall fed ration.

This year silages have been extremely variable, however, there have been two consistent trends – samples show significant reductions in metabolic energy and fibre levels are higher. There were also higher levels of lignin which is a non-digestible fibre. This unusually high level has been attributed to the cold dry spring and then a sudden wet, warm growth period for grass.

Hence, ewe feeds need to contain good levels of readily available fibre to ensure the rumen microbes deliver optimum function for ewes. There is no better fibre source than beet pulp, which in trials has the added benefit of reduced incidence of prolapses.

Ewe products also need to have appropriate levels of starch in the form of maize, wheat and barley and provide high levels of energy with the added benefit of maize providing an essential source of bypass starch. This starch is not degraded by the rumen microbes but is instead digested in the small intestine so becomes a direct supply of energy to the ewe.

There is no better protein or substitute that contains high levels of DUP (digestible undegradable protein) than Hi-pro soya which is sourced through Cefetra’s CRS (certified responsible soya) scheme. This ensures a plentiful, essential supply of colostrum therefore sufficient amounts have to be offered to in-lamb ewes.

It is essential to minimise lamb loss and there are a variety of different ewe products available but it is imperative to study the make up of the ration before prioritising price.

A cost difference of £30 per tonne may seem expensive, however, if you consider an in-lamb twin bearing ewe consumes around 50kg per season, the extra cost is only £1.50 or 0.75p per lamb. (see table below).

Buying nutrition or in simpler terms paying that bit extra for a top quality ration has never been more cost effective. Having ewes at lambing time that are in peak condition, with high energy levels, producing healthy, vigorous lambs with plentiful colostrum and milk to rear two lambs, ensures that every penny is counted with respect to maximising on-farm profitability.

Points to remember:

Avoid low cost, poorly performing raw materials, eg. oat bran, oat feed, urea or urea treated grains

Look for quality raw materials eg. soya, maize, beet pulp, barley and wheat

Pay particular close attention to the levels of Vitamin E, B12 (Cobalt) and selenium

Check the bagging label of your ewe feed. Are the formulations fixed?

Make it a priority to invest in the best quality formulation being offered