15 December 1995

Ewe energy source

HIGH energy feed blocks are useful for offering to ewes in late pregnancy. This is because requirements and intakes of them are higher at this time, says Dr John Vipond in Signets December Beef and Sheep Notes.

Allowing three to nine self-help feed blocks for every 100 ewes each week will provide 10% to 30% of a ewes energy and protein requirements.

"The extra cost of feed blocks relative to concentrates is compensated for by lower labour costs of feeding," he says. "This is particularly relevant with hill sheep, where daily feeding is impractical except during late pregnancy."

Higher intakes are associated with ewes in poor condition, on poor quality forage, in late pregnancy or on an increased number of feeding sites.

Dr Vipond says farmers are increasingly offering feed blocks to twin-bearing ewes as an alternative to extra concentrate.

But he warns it is important to train ewes to use them. Older ewes will take more than hoggets due to their more competitive nature. To avoid problems, hoggets should be offered blocks in their first winter and, where possible, gimmers should be fed separately.

Easy access

"Sheep must have easy access to blocks," says Dr Vipond. "When placed among short heather move blocks frequently to reduce grazing pressure near them."

"If they are put in too sheltered a position younger ewes are chased off by older ewes camping near the block. They can also be used to draw sheep up the hill."