Good nutrition key to lamb survival

By Jim McRobert, Carrs Billington Agriculture

Eighty per cent of lamb losses are down to poor nutrition – get the condition right.

This was the startling statement from vet Debby Brown at a recent meeting I attended in Malton.

Body condition scoring (BCS) is the easiest, cheapest and best way to judge the nutrition of your flock but very few producers do it on a regular basis.

Without regular BCS then the ewes risk being either to fat or to thin and both are bad for ewes.

If ewes are too thin this will affect colostrum quality and lamb vigour (get up and go), conversely if ewes are too fat then this will lead to poor feed intakes resulting in low milk production and the possibility of twin lamb disease.

Target feed intakes have been established at different stages of the ewes year. These are:

Dry Matter Intake

(% of bodyweight)

Kg Dry Matter

(70 kg ewe)

Fresh weight

Silage 30% Dry Matter

Dry

1.5

1.05

3.5

Late Pregnancy

2.5

1.75

5.8

Pre Lambing

2.0

1.4

4.7

Lactation

3.5

2.45

8.2

When feeding ewes inside it is important there is enough trough space; allow 45cm / ewe (70kg) and 50 CM for larger ewes , if this is not possible it is possible to feed on the floor.

As the cheapest feed available is silage, it is important to understand what the silage will provide in terms of energy and protein and having the forage analysed is a great starting point in feeding your ewes.

Once analysed it is possible to ration the ewes to either gain or maintain depending on their condition.

Summary:

  • 80% of lamb losses are due to poor nutrition
  • Body Condition scoring is the best management tool available – and it’s free
  • Analyse your silage (free from Carrs Billington Agriculture)