16 February 1996

Its a cost-effective alternative – BOCM

THERE is a cost-effective alternative diet available to sheep producers short of hay and silage this lambing.

Trials at BOCM Pauls development farm, Barhill, show good quality barley straw can play an important part in feeding ewes both before and after lambing, according to technical manager Charles Young.

He also claims ewes fed straw can produce heavier lambs than those managed on hay. To achieve this the former system must be supplemented with the correct level of concentrate.

Two groups of ewes were supplemented at grass in December with 18% crude protein nuts and 1.5-2kg of barley straw before housing early in January. Before lambing, ewes were transferred to individual pens with one group fed just under 2kg of hay each day, the other untreated barley straw at levels similar to before housing. Straw intakes dropped to 1kg a day in the last two weeks of pregnancy as the developing foetus restricted rumen capacity.

Lambing started in February and the average birthweight of twin lambs was 5.7kg. Growth rates were recorded to 28 days and were more than 300g a day. Ewe liveweight loss was similar on both diets (see table).

The 10-week feeding programme cost about £12 a ewe, assuming a 170% lambing. "If producers do not have any hay or silage our results show that straw can be a cost-effective alternative, as it is possible to achieve good results without compromising ewe and lamb condition," says Mr Young. Barley straw must be clean, dry, free of mould and fed ad lib. He also recommends offering straw racks as well as bedding to encourage higher intakes. But racks should be cleaned out every other day and unwanted straw recycled as bedding.

Barley straw required an extra 500g of supplementation a day than hay or silage. It was fed twice a day to ensure even intakes and help its digestion. &#42

Performance on straw


gain a twin lvwt

Conclamb (kg)loss (kg)