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Are Ewe Ready? Ewe Nutrition and Preparing for Lambing...

As we approach lambing season it is extremely important to focus on ewe nutrition to ensure optimum flock performance.

Ewes have the greatest nutritional demand in late pregnancy and with a rapidly growing foetus and hormonal changes, this reduces rumen capacity, compensated for by a faster throughput, at a time of increased nutrient requirements.

If ewes aren’t provided with the correct nutrition, they can suffer with poor body condition and milk yield and colostrum quality could be reduced, resulting in smaller and weaker lambs with slower growth rates.

Ewe Requirements

In the 8 weeks pre and post lambing, accurate nutrition is essential to match the requirements of the ewe and the lamb. Both underfeeding and overfeeding can have negative impacts on productivity. 

Under Feeding…

·         Low lamb birth weight

·         Reduced lamb survival

·         Weak ewe and lamb bond

·         Delayed lactation with low colostrum and milk yield

·         Reduced lamb growth rates and poor ewe performance

Over Feeding…

·         Dystocia from over-sized lambs (particularly singles)

·         Prolapse

·         Weak ewe and lamb bond

·         Lambing difficulties

Dry Matter Intake (DMI)

Dry Matter Intakes as a % of body weight.

Pregnancy = 2-2.5% liveweight, intake increases with more digestible, better-quality forage.

Lactation = 3.5% liveweight.

Trough Space

15cm/ewe ad-lib forage

45cm/ewe if restricted concentrates

Better to scatter feed if area is clean and dry, which also helps reduce the risk of prolapses.

Energy Requirement

Energy requirements for ewes at the last 2 weeks of pregnancy.

Calculate liveweight of the ewe and take 10% of that + 3 = maintenance requirement in MJ.

Add 4MJ for each lamb carried.

Work back feeding levels from this to build up over 6-8 weeks if requirement is high or 3-4 weeks if only small quantities needed.


(LW/10) +3

10MJ / day

Gestation (last week)

4MJ / Lamb carried = +8 for twins

18 MJ / day


Need 7MJ / litre of milk. For twins 3 litres in week 3 of lactation = +21MJ

31 MJ / day

Closer to lambing, when nutrient demands are high, the best quality forage should be offered. This will maximise intake and reduce the need for supplementation.

The most cost-effective way to meet the nutrient requirements of the ewe is to maximise the contribution of forage, including grazed and conserved grass, brassicas, and roots.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

A vital management tool is body condition scoring (BCS), especially when making decisions for feeding. BCS is of paramount importance in sheep management and is an easy and accurate method of monitoring feeding adequacy of your sheep flock. It assesses the amount of fat cover and muscle mass which can be scored between 1.0 (thin) and 5 (fat).

1.0  – The spinous and transverse processes are prominent and sharp. The fingers can be pushed easily below the transverse bone and each process can be felt. The loin is thin with no fat cover.

2.0  – The spinous processes are prominent but smooth, individual processes being felt only as corrugations. The transverse processes are smooth and rounded, but it is still possible to press fingers underneath. The loin muscle is a moderate depth but with little fat cover.

3.0 – The spinous processes are smooth and rounded; the bone is only felt with pressure. The transverse processes are also smooth and well-covered, hard pressure is required with the fingers to find the ends. The loin muscle is full and with moderate fat cover.

4.0 – The spinous processes are only detectable as a line. The ends of the transverse processes can not be felt. The loin muscles are full and rounded and have a thick covering of fat.

5.0 – The spinous and transverse processes cannot be detected even with pressure; there is a dimple in the fat layers where the processes should be. The loin muscles are very full and covered with very thick fat.

Here are the recommended target BCS from AHDB:

Lowland Ewe

Hill Ewe







3 Months Pregnant






There is data suggesting a positive correlation of BCS with the weight of lamb weaned with:

·         BCS at mating and weight gain from weaning to mating.

·         BCS at scanning and lambing

·         Loss of BCS from lambing (fit ewes) or gain of BCS (thin ewes) to weaning.

DN Ewe Products

Soya Max – Soya Max is a very high energy fully mineralised, 18% protein ewe compound with 15% soya. Designed to allow low levels of supplementation to complement forage whilst driving colostrum quality and production. Contains Safmannan, Availa Zinc and Availa Selenium.

Healthy Sheep – Healthy Sheep is a high energy, fully mineralised, 18% protein ewe compound with a good level of DUP. Healthy Sheep contains Safmannan yeast cell wall, Availa Zinc and Availa Selenium.

Ewenique – Ewenique is a reasonable energy, fully mineralised, 18% protein ewe compound with adequate levels of starch and sugar. It contains Availa Zinc and Availa Selenium.

Prime Ewe – Prime Ewe is an 18% protein ewe compound. This compound is ideally suited to fell ewes carrying single lambs to support body condition or to feed earlier in pregnancy if support is required.

All Seasons – All Seasons is a 16% protein sheep diet, ideal for replacing sugar beet pulp to supplement ewes during the winter when forage or grazing is limited.

For more information about ewe nutrition or any of our ewe products please contact your DN Sales Specialist.

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