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Author Topic: How to feed hill breed ewes throughout pregnancy  (Read 1729 times)


  • Joined Sep 2015
How to feed hill breed ewes throughout pregnancy
« on: October 31, 2017, 09:51:50 am »
I would just like to say thank you to this forum for being so useful - I feel like I've post lots recently and I apologise for the essay! Last year we tupped for the first time 6, texel shearlings, most had twins but 5 of which we had to help at lambing, the lambs presented with legs back etc and maybe the ewes were over fed slightly and the lambs didn't have room to move (can't justify the cost of scanning small numbers so didn't know who was having twins).

This year we've sold the texel and last years ram and brought in 10 ewes and 1 new ram of our favourite breed - the derbyshire gritstone ! I'm essentially looking for advice on feeding hill breeds as they have a lower lambing percentage 145-150% and I really want avoid overfeeding to limit problems but also don't know how strict to be as I want them to have all vitamins and minerals they need for good placenta development and healthy lambs.

I couldn't see any mineral blocks or buckets in the fields where we got them from so to ensure they had everything they need pre-tupping they have been on Crystalyx garlic since I got them (1 bucket lasted them 10 and 4 leftover lambs 9 weeks) all look fab - first time using crystalyx and very impressed but its run out this week. I was thinking of splitting their feeding up into sections e.g

Pre-tupping = moved to best grass, salt block and remainder of crystalyx garlic

Week 1-7 of pregnancy = grass still ok either salt block and countrywide ewe GP bucket or zinc rockie (would that be enough on its own)

Week 7-14 of pregnancy = good quality hay when needed and either salt block and countrywide ewe GP bucket or zinc rockie (again would that be enough on its own at this stage in pregnancy)

Week 14-21 of pregnancy = good quality hay, salt block and Countrywide ewe GP or Crystalyx energy. Lifeline in the last 4 weeks, possibly hard feed in last 4 weeks but from last year 1 ewe wouldn't come at feeding so didn't have any hard feed and she was the only one I didn't have to help at lambing.

Would appreciate any advice on feeding hill type breeds to prevent too much weight gain especially as they're more likely to carry singles ! Thanks from me and the girlies !


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: How to feed hill breed ewes throughout pregnancy
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2017, 07:00:09 pm »
I’ve no experience with Gritstones but I can share my experience with 400+ Swaledales running on very very poor Northumberland moorland.

We put the first timers and some older ewes to a Swale tup for replacements and the rest to BFLs.  We treated the girls the same whether they went to the larger tup or were bred pure. 

Everyone ran together on the moorland until scanning, which was about 8 weeks before lambing.  No hard feed for anyone until then.  Everyone got ad lib hay and or silage from about Christmas onwards.  We gave them minerals, either drenched them with a top quality chelated drench such as Ovithrive or had the Crystalyx red buckets out throughout, or one year we used a powdered mineral mix from PK Nutrition.  Unless they got a drench containing chelated copper, they’d get copper needles mid-pregnancy.

At scanning they were split - singles and fat twins in one group, would get no hard feed unless they seemed to be losing condition.  Twins the biggest group would get a pound a head a day (of an 18% ewe roll) from scanning for four weeks, then a pound and a half a day.  Very thin ewes and any trips that weren’t rolling fat got better ground and a little more feed than the twins.

We had learned the hard way to not feed singles unless they were practically emaciated. :o

I don’t know what type of ground you have, and the Gritstone is a chunkier animal than the Swale.  But my instinct would be to make sure they have minerals your ground lacks, and to hold off hard feed until 8 weeks before, then feed to condition.  Split them into ‘thin’, ‘fit’ and ‘fat’, and manage accordingly.  I think I might use less of an 18% feed rather than more of a 16%, especially in the last four to six weeks.  You’re wanting milk and milk needs protein.  Fatties onto poor ground, and the least nutritious hay, skinnies on the best ground with ad lib top hay.  But I’d ask other Gritstone breeders in your area, they know the breed and the local consitions.

One of the reasons people feed hard food in late pregnancy is that the lambs take up so much space the ewe simply cannot eat enough forage for her nutritional needs.  But that’s more an issue when using a meaty tup, especially of a larger breed, or where both ewe and tup are meaty, and shouldn’t be such of an issue when breeding a hill type pure.

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

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: How to feed hill breed ewes throughout pregnancy
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2017, 09:10:41 am »
I run both pure bred Badger Face Welsh Mountains and pedigree Southdowns and treat them the same.  If you'd like a copy of my Flock Plan PM me your e:mail address.  It is, and always will be, a work in progress and does rely on the ewes being scanned.  In my experience, even after six generations of relentless culling for dystocia, there will occasionally be a huge single or tiny twins (often from a first-timer). 


  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: How to feed hill breed ewes throughout pregnancy
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2017, 08:34:45 pm »
Thanks for your adcvice ! I've pretty much decided this years approach and will try different things over the next couple of years to find what suits best.

Marches Farmer I will PM you my email address, thanks for your willingness to share, it'll be useful to see what others do.

Sally in the North, thanks for your advice, especially the idea of contacting other breeders - I contacted the breed society today who replied straight away which was very useful too (even if I disagree with a few points) !


  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: How to feed hill breed ewes throughout pregnancy
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2017, 07:09:48 pm »
As with all sheep you balance the amount of feed  to the condition score  .   my hill ewes carrying singles get grass and up to 200gms of nuts pre lambing,  the only difference is the length of time they receive these nuts and this is dependent on condition scores and grass quality .  Most will be cs 2 max at lambing


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