22 March 1996

ewe lifelines

Dont cut off

CREEP feeding lambs and supplementing ewes at grass is vital to avoid mineral deficiencies and improve growth rates of lambs.

ADAS senior sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings says it is tempting to stop feeding at turnout. But she stresses that a lactating ewe with two lambs requires about a kilogram of concentrate a day.

She advises that when turned out, ewes require a high specification concentrate. This should comprise at least 12.5 ME, and 21% protein to provide enough milk, and 0.7% to 0.9% magnesium to guard against staggers.

It is important that minerals are supplied in feed to ensure intakes are adequate.

"Many producers turn out and rely on water added or free access minerals but the greatest risk of staggers occurs when early spring grass is flushed after rain," says Dr Stubbings. As the grass has a high moisture content the ewe doesnt visit the water trough as frequently and minerals supplied in this way may not guarantee sufficient intakes to prevent staggers. At the same time free access minerals can be ignored by some ewes."

When considering creep feeding lambs, Dr Stubbings advises flockmasters first to assess whether the cost of creep feeding could be recouped by marketing lambs early enough to get premium price.

"Lambs will eat about 30kg to 40kg a head of creep feed up to finishing, costing about £5 to £6 a lamb," says Dr Stubbings.

"The key to successful creep feeding is to stock tightly at about 50% above the normal rate of 12 ewes/ha so that intakes of creep are high. Otherwise lambs will fill up on grass and growth will be insufficient to reach an early market."

Bought-in creep feed is preferable at 18 to 20% protein, 25% to 28% calcium, 0% phosphorus and 0% magnesium. Home-mixed cereals plus soya should be above 14% moisture or the rumen will fail to break them down.

"To increase water intakes a rock salt lick should be provided next to the water trough.

"Because lambs are being finished intensively a coccidiostat may be needed and veterinary advice should be sought," says Dr Stubbings.

&#8226 Offer a high energy 21% protein concentrate.

&#8226 Supply minerals in feed to guard against staggers.

&#8226 Assess whether cost of creep can be recouped by marketing lambs early.


Lesley Stubbings:"The key to successful creep feeding is to stock tightly."

Correct level and type of supplement fed at turn-out is vital to secure profitable, early-season performance. Jessica Buss and

Jonathan Riley report