27 February 1998

Ewes want quality silage

SHEEP producers must guard against overestimating silage quality for late pregnancy ewes or risk lower birth weights and milk yield, warns independent sheep consultant, Alistair Bird.

Mr Bird suggests forage intake will depend on silage quality. For example, a Mule ewe carrying twins and in condition score three would eat 1.1kg of a 10 ME silage, providing 11MJ ME. "That is adequate up to five weeks before lambing," he says.

In the last five weeks, supplement that silage with 0.45kg of a 12.5 ME 18% concentrate to achieve optimum energy intakes. Step up concentrates to 0.75kg at three weeks pre-lambing, or maintain the same level of concentrate and switch ewes to 11 ME silage. But ewes fed 11 ME silage will have intakes of 1.3kg a head a day and only require concentrates three weeks pre-lambing, he suggests. "Thereafter, feed 0.45kg concentrates a head a day."

If ewes are under condition score 3, ADAS nutritionist Pete Kelly advises feeding concentrates a fortnight earlier. "But do not cut back fat ewes. Maintain condition or risk mobilising body fat that can clog up the liver."

Mr Bird adds that ewes could require some concentrate supplementation after lambing and turn-out. This will depend on grass growth and problems associated with staggers. "Singles can go without, but ewes with twins need 0.50kg a head a day and ewes with triplets 1kg." &#42