Animal nutrition and ewe performance this Winter

After a good grassy year, we are still seeing plenty of grass in the near future and ewes in good condition. This not a reason to short change their nutrition in the coming months.

Animal nutrition is as important as ever and in a year with poor lamb prices, lots of grass and a general negative atmosphere in the industry it is difficult not to look for shortcuts to feeding. However, the more lambs that leave the farm the more profitable the business will be as long as cost of production doesn’t exceed the price you get for lamb.

Feeding the correct level of animal nutrition, at specific times can make a difference to your total Lambs sold.

For those of you with rams in now and are feeding ewes, in which ever way (quality grass/forage, compound animal feed etc) research has shown that maintaining the ewes plane of nutrition for the first 15-30 days post tupping is essential to ensure embryo implantation to the lining of the womb. At this stage, major changes in nutrition can lead to embryos being lost and effect your scanning and number of lambs born. This also goes for mineral levels pre tupping and through gestation.


As your ewes get closer to lambing the nutritional requirements will grow rapidly, especially their energy requirements. 70% of faecal growth occurs in the last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, so ensuring you meet the ewe’s energy requirements is very important. In a grassy year it can be very tempting to cut feeding pre lambing to save money, this could be a false economy, as feeding less or not at all can lead to complications. Pregnancy Toxaemia (Twin Lamb disease), lack of milk, small lambs with little vigour and poor quality colostrum. As the lambs reach full size in the womb they apply a lot of pressure on the rumen, taking up space in the ewe. This means that the ewe is unable to eat enough forage to meet her daily requirement for energy, not to mention the additional requirement of the lambs she is carrying. Feeding something with a high energy density will ensure the ewe is not pulling condition off her back to maintain the lambs, running the risk of Twin Lamb Disease etc.

Testing conserved forages to check energy levels is a good Idea especially if lambing indoors. This can be put into a feed plan to ensure you get the best from your ewes and give the lambs a good start.

Feeding post lambing is also important as it take the ewe 3-4weeks to reach peak milk yield, so supplementing their forage intakes with a concentrate will ensure the ewe do not lose too much condition, which could compromise condition when returning to the rams.

Monitoring of condition score and weight of your ewe from pre tupping right through to post lambing will give you a much more accurate idea of ewe health (judging by eye can be as much as 20% out). Ewes should only lose ½ a condition score during pregnancy and target not to lose any condition while nursing lambs.

Crediton Milling provide advice and help on a range of topics regarding animal nutrition, helping farmers and animal owners in Devon and across the south west.

For more information please contact the office or Joe Banks

Joe Banks