Steps to take now
Forage analysis is highly recommended – this info can be used to formulate a ration that ensures ewes are getting sufficient energy and protein in their diet. If you have a range of forages remember to feed the best stuff last – giving them the best as lambing draws near and ewes have reduced intakes.
Arrange blood sampling of the ewes 4 weeks prior to lambing to highlight concerns in the feeding regime before clinical signs are seen. This is close enough to lambing to provide an accurate picture, but allows enough time to make any necessary changes. If you scan your ewes, 5 ewes from the singles, twins and triplets should be screened. If the flock isn’t scanned, 15-25 ewes with varying body condition scores should be selected for sampling.
A full profile costs £150 for up to 20 bloods to be analysed, plus the visit and time to bleed the sheep.
What information will it provide?
Energy levels – beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
BHB is produced by the liver when sheep use fat stores to provide energy the diet
is not providing. Ewes carrying twins and triplets are most at risk as they have a higher energy demand. Energy levels can be increased by increasing the volume of concentrates fed, adding high energy supplements or providing an alternative energy source.
Protein levels – Urea Nitrogen and Albumin
Protein is vital for lamb growth and producing high quality colostrum and milk.
Blood urea nitrogen levels provide a snapshot of protein status at the current time, whilst blood albumin levels show longer term protein status.
Mineral check – Magnesium and Copper
A useful check of both of these vital elements at this important stage.