Scanning has already started and so too has the countdown to lambing on many units, but just how much does it cost to keep ewes, fit, healthy and in peak condition to enable them to produce plentiful, quality colostrum and milk supply, allowing ewes to nurse two healthy lambs?

According to Steven Turnbull, sales and product manager for Davidsons Animal Feeds, this winter will see a huge shift away from energy blocks being available on hill units following last year's horrendous weather and increased ewe and lamb mortality, to feeding from a quad and snacker, which he says can produce significant savings.

"Taking a tonne of energy blocks at £800 would equate to approximately 3200kg of compound rolls in money terms," said Mr Turnbull.

"Feeding 0.3kg per day per ewe of a good quality, fully mineralised 12.8 ME ewe feed, along with average forage would give the hill ewe enough of the required minerals and energy to keep her in good health and condition until almost the eighth week prior to lambing.

"Feeding 0.3kg would equate to almost 10,000 drops of feed for the equivalent of a tonne of blocks. So, for those hill units that can utilise a quad and snacker, huge savings could be made using this method."

He added that Davidsons Animal Feeds' 20% protein Super Ewe is one of the lead ewe formulations that can be used. Designed in conjunction with the SAC and specifically targeted at ewes three to four weeks pre- lambing, this year's formulation is again soya, maize and beet pulp-based, thereby containing the best bypass DUP protein source from hipro soya, with bypass starch from the maize and the fibre and sugars from beet pulp. It also boasts one of the highest metabolic energy of all ewe products on the market.

"We only get one chance to get the nutrition pre-lambing correct," said Mr Turnbull. "Farmers take great care in purchasing stock rams and females and the same level of detail and inspection should be made for ewe feed formulations," he said.

Following last year's long, dry summer weather, which resulted in many trace elements and essential vitamins and minerals being deficient in the analysis of forages, he also advised producers to pay particular attention to looking at ewe formulations containing these essential vitamins and minerals.

"Vitamins A, D and in particular Vitamin E and Selenium together play a major role in the well being of the in-lamb ewe and the viability and vigour in the new born lambs," added Mr Turnbull.

Below is an example of a feed plan for twin-bearing ewes based on three different priced ewe rations in £10 increments, all being fed at the same rates. With the amount between the first and third feed being £20/tonne. The actual price per ewe difference over a three-month period only equates to around £1 per ewe or 50p per lamb.

In nutrition terms, that extra cost in ration formulation provides much higher quality raw materials which gain a huge increase in metabolic energy to the ration being used. This helps gain increased quality colostrum and milk, reduce the risk of twin-lamb disease, reduce lamb fatalities, reduce prolapse, get more lambs out of the pets' pen and set on to single bearing mothers.

"With some cast ewes being valued at around £100, paying for that extra bit of increased quality nutrition can lead to huge savings and a much more profitable sheep unit," he concluded.

£/tonne £/tonne

Weeks to lamb Feed (kg) 290 300 310 290 300 310

Cost pence per day Cost pence per week

12 0.3 8.7 9 9.3 61 63 65

11 0.3 8.7 9 9.3 61 63 65

10 0.3 8.7 9 9.3 61 63 65

9 0.3 8.7 9 9.3 61 63 65

8 0.5 14.5 15 15.5 102 105 109

7 0.5 14.5 15 15.5 102 105 109

6 0.5 24.5 15 15.5 102 105 109

5 0.75 21.7 22.5 23.3 152 158 163

4 0.75 21.7 22.5 23.3 152 158 163

3 1 29 30 31 203 210 217

2 1 29 30 31 203 210 217

1 1 29 30 31 203 210 217

Total cost per ewe £14.63 £15.13 £15.63

Total cost per lamb £7.32 £7.57 £7.82