Sheep Fact Sheets

Understanding Sheep Nutrition

 

BasicsofGoodSheepManagement 211x300 Understanding Sheep Nutrition

In our video The Basics of Good Sheep Management, we discuss the needs of a ewe and their lambs throughout the 12 months of the year.

Most sheep producers will pasture their ewes on grass in the summer months and often the lambs will be grazing with the ewes. This certainly is not the situation in every case. In an early lambing situation the lambs will most likely be weaned before the ewes are let out to graze for the summer.

I think one has to understand the needs of a ewe through its reproductive cycle. When a ewe is open, unbred, and her lambs are weaned, her nutritional requirements are quite slim. In our video we discuss condition scoring where we can class our individual sheep into certain grades between one and five. One being very thin; Five being very fat. So a condition score of three, is in the middle where a ewe is healthy and in average condition. A short period before breeding, a matter of weeks, a ewe’s condition should be brought to a score of 3.5 to 4. Studies done by the National Sheep Association in Britain, has shown that a scoring of 3.5 to 4 will produce the most numerous amount of lambs. And so, in the weeks before breeding, if your ewes are below this score then a practice called flushing, where the ewes are fed extra feed to reach this condition score, will bring your ewes to the necessary score. It is also felt, that this process where the ewes condition is on an inclining level, is also beneficial in producing the maximum amount of lambs.

After breeding, through a matter of 28 days, it is important that a ewe will not suffer through any stress either environmental or nutritional. A maintenance requirement through the ewes gestation period with an increasing feed requirement in the last weeks before lambing. Once again, condition scoring is an important part of measuring your ewes needs throughout this period. This is also discussed in depth in our Sheep Management video.

After lambing, a ewes milk supply will peak and then drop off to a low level by about 6 to 8 weeks. Although the ewes milk supply will continue for several months following this, the lambs will require some supplemental feed in terms of good grass, grain, etc., to ensure that they continue growing through the following months. Once again, this is discussed in our Sheep Management video.

(Information on raising sheep)

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