Do not buy cheap
IF you are unable to home mix diets or store straights then buy good quality ewe concentrate and dont skimp.
This advice comes from independent sheep consultant and Cotswold Sheep Group secretary Alistair Bird, who says that some concentrate feeds available this year should be treated with caution.
"Dont buy cheap concentrates – these are available and being sold to producers on price because margins are tight." Rations for ewe feed should be at least 12.5ME and 18% crude protein, he says.
While checking the list of ingredients may give some guidance, Mr Bird says these are still only listed in order of proportion and the percentage of straights included is not given. Taking wheat feed as an example, he says this could vary between bran, which is little more than a ration filler, to high energy good quality wheat feed.
Where home mixing is the preferred option other considerations include storage of feedstuffs which means following FABBL guidelines. For mixed farms with arable crops fulfilling requirements is rarely a problem as theres usually available bird proofed storage, he says.
Home mixing also means adding minerals to a ration, so producers should register with the local trading standards offices to avoid breaking the law, which can leave them liable to a large fine.
Cheap available cereals on farm, such as barley, can make the basis of a home mix, he says. "When cereals are dry – 13-14% moisture – add beet pulp to help digestion and prevent acidosis."
Feeding cereals with moisture of 16-17% is safer and these can be mixed with a good protein source, such as soya bean meal.
Diets using soya get Mr Birds approval. "It is a relatively cheap, palatable feed, which is high in protein but is also a good energy source."
Aside from home-mixing, producers can feed straights. Maize gluten is the only option, says Mr Bird, who advises adding 10% soya to maize gluten for ewe diets, as well as buying large quantities of bulk maize gluten to ensure best value.
Whatever ration is being fed, he emphasises that it is important to have forages analysed, so the ration can be balanced. "Often you can smell a bit of hay – it can smell lovely – but this is frequently far from the truth and you risk under-feeding ewes."