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by Douglas Dawson, East Coast Viners
The foundations of a successful 2010 lambing are laid now; ewe condition score (CS) has a big impact on lamb numbers and there has been a lot of research in Australia and New Zealand showing how diet can improve tup fertility and the SAC have been looking at Lifeline Ramcare tubs as part of the Easicareä system.
Tup feeds should offer the benefits of the latest Australian and New Zealand research but most are for the pedigree market. To improve sperm production and quality they need high undegradable protein content to increases testicle size and condition, proven in trials to increase sperm production. Antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium improve sperm motility and viability allowing you to use fewer, but better, tups. Feeds must have the correct mineral balance and if they include ammonium chloride the risk of urinary calculi is virtually eliminated. ECV Tup Rolls are formulated to give you the benefits of the latest research.
Tups should be CS 3.5-4.0 when turned out. Rams can lose up to 15% of their body weight during tupping and energy deficient reduces sperm production. However work rate is poor if they are overfed before tupping so the right CS is crucial.
An alternative for hard working rams is Rumenco Lifeline RamCare feed bucket, they encourage better use of grass and forages without compromising performance and the tubs are self fed for lower labour requirement. The objective is tups with a higher propensity to work and increased mating ability, allowing ewe to ram ratios closer to 100:1. Lifeline RamCare has been developed in conjunction with Dr John Vipond of SAC. They can totally replace concentrates for rams when grass sward height exceeds 4cm or they can be used in conjunction with low levels of concentrate feed (up to 0.45kg/ head/day) to supply additional nutrients when grazing is poor or with low quality forages.
Lifeline Ram Care buckets provide mainly undegradable protein with fish oil, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, shown to boost ram libido, sperm production and motility. Sel-Plex selenium is included for improved sperm quality. They correct mineral deficiencies in grass and forages and the vitamins added are at full recommended daily allowances including B12 and Biotin is added for improved hoof integrity. Intakes will be around, ram lambs 30-50g/day (1 bucket per 20 head/ month), shearling rams 50-80g/day (1 bucket per 12 head/month). Offer 1 Lifeline RamCare bucket (22.5kg) per 20 head or less, all year round.
Preparing tups is only half the battle, the table shows the effect of ewe condition score at tupping time on lambing percent.
Healthy ewes can gain condition relatively easily; CS 0.5 in 2 weeks is common, but an early start on good grazing after weaning is advisable. Gimmers may require particular attention. Group ewes by condition score at weaning. Give the leanest group the best grazing and feed them if necessary. Worm ewes and treat for external parasites if necessary.
They should be on a rising plain of nutrition and that may require concentrate feeding with a product like ECV Ewe Lamber 16%, blocks like Rumevite Sheep Super Energy plus fish oil or buckets like SUPAlyx Sheep Energy Plus fish oil. Recommended daily intake of SUPAlyx is 50-150g supplying 0.8-2.4MJ, concentrate feeds or blocks are necessary if more energy is required to get sheep into condition. Monitor ewe condition regularly and adjust grazing and feed as required.
Grass with a 5-6 cm sward height is best; once over 7 cm long ewes may not do so well. Swards with a lot of white clover are ideal for lambs and ewes but swards or silage with red clover content may have too high oestrogen levels and should be avoided either side of tupping.
Red clover is very productive and produces very palatable fodder high in protein. Increasingly farmers are producing silage from red clover swards to save the cost of nitrogen fertiliser.
The live weight gain of lambs on red clover aftermaths is usually higher than on conventional ones, however breeding ewes should not be grazed on swards, or fed silage, with red clover for four weeks before and after mating because of the oestrogen content. To avoid bloat in lambs on red clover aftermaths ensure that they not hungry when moved on to them.