19 January 2001

Late pregnancy is vital

THE latter part of pregnancy is one of the most critical times of the year in terms of ewe management, believes Robyn Hulme.

"Having ewes that arent fit enough at lambing leads to weak lambs and ewes which are short of milk," says Mr Hulme. He starts feeding his Suffolk in-lamb ewes 55 days pre-lambing with a 15% protein mix based on barley, oats, sugar beet pulp and soya.

Supplementary feeding levels start at 0.25kg/day for twin-bearing ewes. Quantities are increased gradually so that by lambing time ewes receive 1kg/day of a coarse mix which is increased to an 18% protein content four weeks before lambing. Ad-lib hay is on offer from early November.

Although feed intakes are high for pedigree Suffolks – ewes can eat up to 1.3kg of a 21% mix in three feeds a day post lambing – the nutritional principles are no different to those for a lowland commercial flock.

"Having a tight lambing period means that we are not feeding too much for too long; but its important to remember that ewes maintained for most of the year on a forage-based regime need time for their digestive systems to adjust to a cereal ration.

"We may appear to start supplementary feeding a long time before lambing, but I think its important that the ewe is settled to the diet so that she can cope with demands imposed by rapid growth of unborn lambs during the final four weeks of pregnancy."