Ewe Nutrition: - First months of pregnancy

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So, the rams have been in and hopefully a good percentage of the ewes are now pregnant. Nutrition between now and lambing is going to have a crucial impact on the lambing percentage, and therefore next year’s profits, and so needs careful planning and attention.

Nutritional aims & needs will vary throughout gestation, and the first third is all about establishing a heathy pregnancy and setting up conditions for optimal growth. Key objectives at this stage are

  • Ensuring survival of the fertilised ova
  • Successful implantation and establishment of the pregnancy
  • Allow the development of an established and functional placenta

If things go well at this stage, it should minimise the number of empty ewes at scanning and a healthy and well-developed placenta will maximise the growth, development and survival of the lambs in later pregnancy.

During the first month of pregnancy foetal growth is minimal, and survival and implantation is the key concern. It’s best to avoid anything that can stress or disturb the ewes in the first month post tupping. This obviously includes unnecessary handling, but it also includes any major changes to grazing or additional feeding. Sudden dietary changes can affect the rumen’s function leading to reduced embryo survival.

This means that ideally the ewes should be in their optimal body condition at the end of tupping and on suitable grazing to help them maintain this for the coming month.

In the second and third months of pregnancy the growth and development of a healthy placenta is a priority for the ewe. Most foetal growth takes place in late pregnancy, but it relies on the healthy placenta that is developing now. To help achieve this, it’s important for the ewe to maintain her body condition score, again avoiding over or under feeding.

Trace elements can also have an impact during at this time. During the early stages of pregnancy cobalt deficiency can hamper embryo development. In addition, Vitamin E and selenium deficiencies can be linked to an increase in embryo loss at implantation, the crucial point when the embryo attaches and embeds into the placenta. A good knowledge of trace element levels in the available grazing, combined with plasma levels in the ewes, are advisable in deciding on the need for supplementation.

The first few months of pregnancy are a key stage in the overall aim of getting health lambs to market. Understanding and matching the nutritional needs of the ewe at this time is an important element in ensuring successful results for the season.

Nettex Sheep Conditioning Drench is formulated for use in ewes, rams and lambs and is ideal for use at critical points in the year to help ensure animals are in the best condition possible. Nettex drenches all contain Collate technology which utilises a fast working energy carrier system that delivers optimum nutritional value when it is most required, providing nutritional value into the bloodstream, maximising effect and minimising waste to provide maximum profitability.