Feeding ewes pre-lambing
It’s vital that ewe nutrition is optimised throughout pregnancy to aid lamb development, as well as maintain ewe health and condition. Particular attention should be paid to their diet in the last six weeks of gestation, as this is when ewes start to produce colostrum and 70% of foetal growth takes place.
Splitting ewes up according to the number lambs they’re carrying at scanning, will mean feed can be allocated correctly. This means target pre-lambing body condition scores (BCS) will be met, reducing the risk of problems either side of labour.
Aim for the following target body condition scores at lambing (AHDB):
Lowland ewe (60-80kg)
Hill ewe (40-60kg)
Target BCS at lambing
3.0 – 3.5
If ewes are over-condition, they’re more prone to prolapse. Whereas under-conditioned ewes may have a reduced milk yield and produce lambs with a lower birthweight and/or survival rate.
Our experts recommend providing cake or nuts that contain 16-18% protein to ewes carrying multiple lambs. This will help to ensure ewes maintain the correct BCS. Providing a higher protein and energy diet will also help to prevent twin lamb disease.
It’s also important to ensure ewes have enough selenium and Vitamin E in their diet during late gestation. This will help support immune function, which is compromised just before the ewe lambs. These minerals and vitamins are also vital to help improve lamb vigour, survivability at birth and long-term growth rates.
Metabolic testing, to detect vitamin and mineral deficiencies, can be carried out by your vet and blocks or buckets can be used to supplement livestock. Alternatively, drenches and boluses can be used to ensure individual ewes are dosed.
Silage analysis should be considered to better understand the dry matter, nutrients and trace elements are available.
Our experts recommend vaccinating against clostridial diseases, such as lamb dysentery, and pasteurellosis, which can cause lamb deaths.
Breeding ewes will require a primary course of two pasurella injections four to six weeks apart followed by an annual booster four to six weeks before lambing. Clostridial diseases should be vaccinated against four weeks prior to lambing.
Also consider administering a footrot injection to sheep, at least four weeks before lambing if they’re housed. This will help to prevent it spreading.
Treat for parasites
Liver fluke poses a risk to in-lamb ewes as it can cause anaemia, rapid loss of condition and even death. It can also reduce lamb birth weight and cause abortion. Because of this, consider treating pregnant ewes with a flukicide at least six weeks prior to lambing.
Worms become active once they detect oxytocin in the blood – the hormone that signals the start of milk production in the ewe just before and after lambing. Treating ewes soon after lambing when milk production has begun will therefore be beneficial.
Lice and scab also pose a risk to livestock during the winter as the parasites tend to be more active when temperatures fall. It’s crucial ewes are treated prior to the lambing season, to reduce the risk of lice or scab being passed onto lambs, as treatment isn’t available for lambs under three weeks of age.
Lambing kit list
There’s nothing more frustrating than not having everything you need while you’re in the middle of lambing. Here’s our handy checklist to make sure you’re prepared:
- Milk powder
- Disposable gloves
- Lamb warming box
- Infrared lamps and bulbs
- Tail and castration rings
- Elastrator pliers
- Bottles and tubes
- Syringes and needles
- Prolapse harness/spoon
- Gels and lubes
- Ropes and instruments
- Feeder buckets
- Hay racks
- Medication that might be required e.g. antibiotics
- Glucose solution to treat twin lamb disease
- Cade lamb feeders
- Clean and disinfect sheds
- Set up lambing pens, including cade lamb pens
- Check water supply and clean water troughs
View our 2022 Lambing Essentials List
Everything you need to get lambing done right this season
- Ewe Feeds
- Minerals, Feed Buckets & Blocks
- POM-VPS Medicine
- Lambing Essentials
- Disinfectants & Cleaners
- Heat Lamps
- Lamb Nutrition & Feeding