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Author Topic: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?  (Read 533 times)

abi

  • Joined Aug 2020
best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« on: March 14, 2021, 09:59:15 am »
Hello, I have two pet sheep who are now around 6 weeks from having their first lambs. They are in good condition and are quite big sheep but not overweight (from what I can tell I think their body condition is 3.5-4) I have read different advice on how much to feed in the 6 weeks before lambing so wonder what people think, especially regarding well looked after pets (as opposed to skinny hill sheep)? One advice I received from a vet student was build up from 250g to 1kg for the final two weeks. but this seems like a lot of food to me and I am concerned about them having giant lambs and not being able to get them out? the other advice was feed 400-600g a day until lambing. this is probably the one I will go for unless warned otherwise. and should I really be continuing to feel their body condition and adjusting accordingly if they are going under or over weight? or is this irrelevant? many thanks for any help as I want to give them the best chance of an easy birth!
p.s they are 2 year old Cheviots and I'm in Scotland without much good grass coming through, and they get ad lib hay and access to an energy block...they weigh 60kg.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2021, 10:12:47 am by abi »

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2021, 12:39:16 pm »
Which cheviot ? border or hill northies or southie hill cheviots , it makes a difference , since  you don't know how many lambs they are carrying ? cheviots assume 1 , this is their first lamb and you say they are very fit . You haven't said what the father is , this also makes a difference . So start now 50g per day for a couple of days then 100 g for a couple of days then 200 g for a couple of days  ,finally 300g  start of second week and just keep going on 300 g per sheep per day until lambed , keep hay ad- lib and lick going as well . CS  1 time every week just to know whats happening and they should lose a tiny amount of condition ideally 3 at lambing  ,if increasing in condition due to the grass coming through then cut the feed a little

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2021, 12:55:16 pm »
Cheviots about to lamb for the first time being CS 3.5-4 are already fatter than I would want them.  Hill sheep should be CS 2.5 for lambing, certainly not more than 3.

What tup did you use? 

Personally I wouldn't give them any hard food at all, but keep up with ad lib good quality hay and haylage.  Although they may be overweight, you don't want their condition to crash this close to lambing, and even if they are fat, they still need plenty of sugar for this last 6 weeks.  A molassed feed / energy / mineral lick will cover that.

If you feel you must give them some cake, I would give no more than 250g per head per day, and keep an eye on their condition.  Any ewe whose condition deteriorates may need a little extra.

There is an argument for giving a little cake or a feed block even though they are fat, which is that the lambs are really growing now and taking up space that the rumen needs to digest forage. This effect is exacerbated in a fat ewe, as she already has the space limited by fat deposits.  Even fat ewes can get metabolic distress if they can't take in enough nutrients to feed themselves and the growing lambs.  So with the space for the rumen reduced by the growing lambs and by the ewe's internal fat, she may simply not have room to digest enough forage to meet her needs. 

I'd be more anxious about that if they weren't Cheviots.  Cheviot lambs are born very tiny, so will be taking up less room than a Mule's lambs would be.  If you used a Cheviot tup, even better.  Also I think Cheviots are probably a lot less prone to triplets than Mules or some other types. 

Speaking of triplets, the other side of that coin is singles.  You really don't want to be supplementing any ewe having a single, especially a fat ewe, or you could end up with a lamb so large it can't get born.  First timers of a breed that isn't massively mutiparous are more likely to have singles - as are ewes which were fat at the time of conception.

So my advice is to make sure they have good quality forage and access to plenty of sugar and minerals, and not feed more than that.  But keep an eye on condition (check once a week) and consider a little cake for any whose condition deteriorates. 

And good luck!  As Cheviots, their lambs shouldn't be massive at birth, so hopefully all will be well :)


x-posted with shep53.  She has more experience with Cheviot ewes than I do (although I have masses of experience with Swaledales, Mules, Texel crosses, Shetlands and Shetland crosses), so take her advice on a feeding regime.  Neither of us want you feeding them much cake.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2021, 02:22:45 pm »
I quite agree about not giving any hard food. These are first time lambers carrying a good weight with unknown numbers of lambs.
You've said they are pets so presumably it's more important to have an easy birth and live lambs than the potential of massive singles with the aid of a vet (or worse.)


I've  kept sheep for several decades and my days of aiming for large lambs and the constant surveillance needed are over. My few sheep now get ad lib hay and a high energy and protein feed block and are checked frequently during the day, but not usually at night. I find the lambs are still a reasonable size, the ewes lamb with minimal problems and the milk supply, encouraged by spring grass is more than adequate to get April born lambs fat and away by September.


Stick with your ad lib hay and feed block. You will find they eat more of the block in cold weather or when they feel they need it. And I'm sure they'll be fine.



























Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

abi

  • Joined Aug 2020
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2021, 05:44:10 pm »
ok thanks so so much for your help guys. the tup is cheviot too so good to know they have a good chance at small lambs. I think they are north country cheviots . I didn't know there were different types but they look just like the north cheviot picture on wikipedia. I've realised I misunderstood the condition scoring picture and would actually say they are a 3-3.5 as I can definitely feel each vertebrae on the spine and transverse vertebrae are detectable. so I'll feed them very minimal feed as suggested (they've always been fed so would go crazy if they got nothing but I'll keep it low) and keep an eye on their score. they are pets (orphans left for dead) that became a very much loved part of the family so its been a steep learning curve as I never intended to keep sheep and am far more interested in keeping them alive than having big lambs. so that's very interesting to know they don't really need much hard food.
thanks again everybody, its very helpful.





SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2021, 07:27:44 pm »
Brilliant, I am very glad to hear that it was a Cheviot tup :relief:

Keeping them on minimal hard feed with an energy block sounds just right, hopefully all will be well and the teeny lambs will come shooting out no bother :):thumbsup:

We shall be very glad to hear how it goes, and even more pleased if you give us pictures :hugsheep: :love: :sheep:
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2021, 07:37:48 pm »
C S now a lot better so try and keep them level with only a small loss and no increase , be aware cheviots can improve in condition on very little fresh spring grass , watch the hay consumption if it starts to go down fast then grass is sufficient for their needs . It is a balancing act as you don't know how many lambs they are carrying , one carrying a single may put on condition while one carrying twins /triplets may loose condition on the same amount of feed , so keep checking . Glad they are carrying pure lambs it makes life a bit easier . Are they already in a vaccination system or you not going down that route ,fine either way your choice . If you want to post a picture or 2 especially front on they i can tell you which northie, as a border which are the ones on wiki can make big adults

abi

  • Joined Aug 2020
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2021, 08:26:34 pm »
ok brilliant that is helpful. thanks so much. I will definitely let you know how they get on! I vaccinated them in October which I realise now was the wrong time. here are some pics if you can tell which kind they are! thank you...there is one of each of my pets, and then the whole flock that they came from, which I'm assuming are the same type...

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2021, 08:44:09 pm »
Hill northies  definitely  ,are you sure they weigh 60kg ? they and the flock they came from are not very big even for hill northies . If going with vaccinations then they need done  about 4 wks before due to lamb to protect the lambs . Are you 100% sure they are pregnant  developing udder /floppy pink vulva ?

abi

  • Joined Aug 2020
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2021, 10:06:08 pm »
ok thanks, so are northies the ones that make big lambs? they definitely weigh 60kg as I weighed them myself in February. the rest of the flock are smaller than the pets, the pets are quite long but maybe doesn't show in the photo. maybe this photo is clearer (my sheep is on the left and the rest are part of the flock) not 100% pregnant but were definitely romancing with the ram. I was told udder wouldn't start showing till about 3 weeks before and so haven't checked yet, although I have noticed pink vulva I think...will have a good look!

Bramham Wiltshire Horns

  • Joined Oct 2014
  • leeds
  • Bramham flock Wiltshire Horns
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2021, 09:51:10 am »
hi ABI

This is what i have used on my sheep for the last 3 years and havent had trouble with Lambing,

mine are Wiltshire Horns so may need to adjust depending on breed

it maynot work for everyone but as a newbie mhyself this has worked great.

Feed Ration

Notes:
   Feed a 18% protein, 12.5MJ ewe concentrate
   Assuming hay is of average quality at 8.5MJ
   Ewes are in Body Condition Score (BCS) 3 4
   Concentrate feeding to start 6 weeks pre lambing
   Not knowing how many lambs ewes are carrying
   Offer high energy lick buckets 6 weeks pre lambing

it will all depend on Grass quality coming through as well

Shearlings are usually not as prolific as older ewes and their cervixes are generally tighter having not lambed before. If you over feed you will have difficulties lambing single lambs. Considering all these factors I would feed each ewe up to 0.5kg/head/day as shown in table below:

      Weeks Pre Lambing   
                                               6      4    2    1
Amount to feed per ewe (kg)   0.13   0.25   0.4   0.5


This is just a guide that I would use . Lambing will be a learning curve and you may have to tweak the ration next year if lambs are too big, reduce feed If lambs are too small/weak or ewes are in poor condition, increase amounts.

Hope this helps
follow on FB@BramhamWiltshireHorns

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2021, 11:05:33 am »
Looks much bigger in the last picture then the first ,so well grown and hopefully lambing going to be easy  :thumbsup: . young sheep with first lamb start to develop udder slowly over a long period unlike a mature ewe which can get big nearer to lambing  . Hill northie lambs are about 5-6 kg for mature ewe single  & 4-5 kg for twins with shearlings a bit lighter,ewe can be 60-80 kg , park / border / caithness northie lambs are bigger and longer as the ewe can be 80-100 kg

abi

  • Joined Aug 2020
Re: best feeding plan for sheep pre-lambing?
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2021, 07:43:32 pm »
thanks again for all the help everyone! so glad I asked as I would have been feeding them way too much on the vets advice.

 

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