Early snow risks ewe embyo loss

Early snow risks ewe embyo loss

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Many ewes are at the critical implantation stage of pregnancy and the early onset of snow and continued frosts will put the 2011 lamb crop at serious risk ewes receive adequate feed, says Rumenco technical manager David Thornton.

 "Snow and ice covered pastures can compromise embryo survival, with all but the latest lambing ewes now at the critical implantation stage of pregnancy. This process will not be completed for 3-4 weeks and any nutritional stress over this period can cause embryos to be reabsorbed, which means a lower lambing percentage. But ewes in good body condition score (>3) are less prone to losing lambs than those in poor condition (<2.5)," he says.

David advises that when grazing is covered by snow or has been subjected to repeat frosts, ewes outside in these difficult conditions must be given a maintenance ration. "Where silage is available - without compromising stocks for later use in the season - offer 1kg of dry matter to supply 9-10MJ of extra energy. Alternatively, provide 2kg of fresh straw, allowing ewes to select and waste. Allowing selection through the straw provides same nutrition as feeding medium quality hay."

In addition, David recommends giving ewes access to high energy and protein feed blocks or a small amount of cereal. "However, trough feeding at such a critical early stage of pregnancy may be counter-productive; excessive bumping and barging as animals compete for food can in itself also cause embryo losses. If cereals are fed, mix in a sheep mineral or provide a free-access mineral bucket."

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