Feeding in the final stages of pregnancy

As the ewe enters the final trimester (third) of pregnancy, the lamb(s) start to grow rapidly.

This has two effects on the ewe:

  1. The demands on her body to feed the growing lambs increase rapidly;
  2. Her physical capacity to consume sufficient amounts of forage decreases as the growing lambs put pressure on the rumen.

So from about 6 or 7 weeks before lambing, most sheep keepers will start to introduce a concentrate feed for ewes.

Pre-lambing feedingCompetition for pre-lambing feed can be fierce!

If ewes don’t get adequate nutrition now, it can cause metabolic disorders (pregnancy toxaemia or Twin Lamb Disease), poor lamb birthweights, reduced lamb viability, delayed onset of lactation and poor milk quality, leading to poor lamb growth rates. So not trivial issues :-(

Below are some feeding guidelines but feeding rates must be adjusted to accommodate forage quality and quantity, ewe condition and number of lambs carried.

  • Start feeding at 0.1 kg/ewe/day at around 6 weeks before lambing. Introducing the feed gradually allows the bacteria in the rumen to adapt to the changing environment.
  • Increase daily amount gradually depending on number of lambs carried, ewe condition and forage type.
  • If the flock has been scanned, feed triplet-bearing ewes up to 1kg/ewe/day, twin-bearing ewes up to 0.8kg/ewe/day and single-bearing ewes up to 0.45kg/ewe/day.
  • Feed this level for 1-3 weeks after lambing then reduce gradually as grass growth becomes adequate

For the best results split the daily allowance so that no more than 0.5kg is fed at any one time.

Being a tad nerdy and liking to plan in advance, I have a spreadsheet that I use to plan the feeding pattern over the lambing period and to calculate the amount of feed I need to buy.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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