Sheep farmers could improve lamb crops and end returns by paying closer attention to concentrate formulations along with the actual raw materials and vitamin specification a ewe feed contains on the run up to lambing.

Post scanning is the time to think about how to ensure ewes, and the lambs they are carrying perform to their best potential when born and most of that is down to providing top quality nutrition both pre and post lambing.

During the final six weeks in the run up to lambing, a ewe’s rumen space is reduced due to her growing lambs leading to a potential 30% reduction in feed intake. Therefore, it is crucial that the concentrate is of a high quality when the quantity she can eat is reduced. Providing a concentrate containing high quality protein sources such as soya ensures a good level of digestible undegradable protein (DUP) which is more available to the ewe helping to promote foetal growth and milk quality/quantity.

An inclusion of a good quality fibre source such as beet pulp will also provide a vital energy source for the ewe helping to maintain body condition during lactation. This has also shown to reduce prolapses promoting better lifetime performance of the ewe.

Alongside quality raw materials a high specification vitamin and mineral pack is also vital in a good compound feed . With Vitamins A, E and B12 alongside selenium being some of the most crucial to the ewe and her growing lambs. Please see below:

Vitamin A – Required to promote lamb vitality, prevent ‘night blindness’ and for ewe immunity this is important as ewe’s immunity levels are reduced during pregnancy.

Vitamin E – Works as an antioxidant to prevent development of disease through the prevention of free radicals. Vitamin E is vital for pregnant ewes in order to promote birth weight and lamb vigour helping lambs to quicker stand and suck post birth.

Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is synthesised by rumen microbes allowing adequate levels of the vitamin to the ewe. However, if cobalt levels are low this can lead to B12 deficiency leading to a reduced appetite and reduced milk production. B12 is crucial for ewes at lambing when appetite is already suppressed. This is particularly important to ensure lambs are born with a good B12 status as they are not yet able to synthesise the vitamin until the rumen is fully formed.

Selenium – Selenium works alongside vitamin E to promote immunity, growth and development. Selenium is also passed from the mother to foetus to ensure a good selenium status to the lamb at birth. Selenium provided as selenised yeast is more bioavailable further enhancing selenium status of both the ewe and her lambs.

Increasing concentrate feed specification does incur a cost to the farm, which broken down, usually amounts to an additional £1 per head over the course of a 12-week period for moving up a feed spec.

However, by promoting ewe health, lamb vigour, birth weight and milk quality we can better improve lamb and ewe health in long run. Increasing live lambs by 2% in a 500-ewe flock scanning 170% would mean an extra 17 lambs to the value of £1020. Based on a lamb valued £60 at sale.