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AHDB Beef and Lamb are funding some work on mastitis in ewes at Warwick University, part of which has involved looking at the impact of nutrition on the occurrence of mastitis.  Some of the flocks that were studied were pedigree breeders and it was clear that in some of the flocks nutrition around lambing and into lactation could be better.

Kate Philips (independent sheep consultant) is involved in the work and has some general observations:

  •  Condition score ewes regularly and ensure that they are in good condition for lambing – not too thin or too fat.  Condition score of 3 ideal for lambing
  • Make good quality forage to reduce dependence on concentrates – aim for 60 D hay or >65D silage.  This will mean cutting perhaps two weeks earlier than normal for many producers
  • Get forage analysed so that concentrate supplements of the correct composition and at the right level can be provided
  • Discuss late pregnancy rations with a nutritionist to help avoid problems with twin lamb disease, oversized lambs and prolapse.  Prolapse is associated with overfeeding and large amounts of internal fat
  • Good quality, well managed grazed grass is capable of supporting spring lambing ewes in late pregnancy and early lactation with little, if any need for supplements (take care to provide magnesium if on new leys)
  • Get ewes scanned and act on this information to provide the correct levels of supplementation according to litter size
  • Avoid feeding excessive amounts of concentrates and certainly do not feed more than 0.5 kg in one feed.   Excess amounts of starchy concentrates can reduce rumen pH dramatically and restrict forage digestion and intake.  Few forages (apart from straw) justify feeding over 1 kg of compound feed per day to twin bearing ewes
  • Remember that energy and protein requirements increase after lambing – e.g. for a 70 kg ewe expecting twins energy requirements increase from around 18MJ/day to about 30 MJ/day.  Appetite increases but if ewes are staying on the same forage this will generally mean an increase in concentrate supplements to help the ewe meet her needs for milk production without losing excessive amounts of body condition