Sheep

Four Tips to Support Sheep Fertility in the Fall

Wellness : Health

Wellness : Nutrition

Clay Elliott, Ph.D.

Companion Animal Nutritionist, Technical Solutions

Sheep producers can support breeding success through high-quality nutrition.

The quintessential signs of fall – leaves changing colors, temperatures dropping, holiday décor on store shelves…. grass that once was soft and green turns brown, dry and dormant.

The transition from green to brown pasture is a key indicator that forage quality is on the decline. Providing your flock with supplement before forages turn and throughout the fall and winter ensures ewes receive the nutrition they need to support breeding and reproduction.

Reliance on grass as the sole nutrition source can take a toll on everything from ewe body condition to breeding and reproduction. Adding supplement to the diet, even in the short-term, can positively impact the flock’s productivity and your profitability.

Maximize fall forages and support sheep fertility with these four nutrition tips:

1. Make mineral the foundation

The foundation of any sheep nutrition program is a high-quality mineral. It ensures ewes have all the nutrients they need to support a healthy pregnancy, parturition and more.

Even the highest quality forages can fall short in providing ewes with necessary mineral nutrition, specifically calcium, magnesium, cobalt, vitamins A and E and selenium. It’s important to remember pasture quality can change on a dime and forages that contained ample mineral levels last week might not today.

Consider offering Purina® Wind & Rain® Sheep Mineral year-round so ewes have adequate mineral reserves when they need it most – like after breeding, during gestation and at parturition.

2. Act quickly when forage conditions change

Quality forage will contain somewhere between 18 to 21% protein. When that grass starts to go dormant, protein can drop to around 5%.

Ewes would have to consume more forage to make up for the steep drop in protein value, which isn’t feasible or cost-effective in most real-world scenarios.

Feeding a mineral and protein supplement can help provide additional nutrients needed to support sheep fertility, especially when forage quality and quantity decline. A good rule of thumb is to start supplementing protein 30 to 45 days before grass starts to visually decline.

3. Make the most of your forages

A key to profitability for nearly any sheep operation is using their home-grown or purchased forages as efficiently as possible. Maximizing forages are especially important as many producers face persistent drought in the Western states.

That’s where strategic supplementation comes in. Selecting a supplement with intake modifying properties can help ewes get more out of the forages they consume. Purina® Accuration® Hi-Fat Block was designed so sheep only consume what they need and nothing more.

As forage quality declines, Purina® Accuration® Hi-Fat Block supplement consumption will rise. Conversely, if forage quality is good, ewes won’t consume as much.

4. Monitor supplement consumption

Once you set out supplement, check in and ensure ewes are hitting target consumption on a weekly basis.
Don’t forget supplementation is an ongoing process. It’s important to keep an eye on consumption to make sure ewes receive the full benefits of supplementation.

Keep consumption on track with these best practices:
  • Set out one supplement tub of Purina® Accuration® Hi-Fat Block per 20-25 head.
  • Monitor consumption, it should be approximately a half pound to one pound per ewe per day.
  • If consumption is too low, move tubs to frequently trafficked spots like loafing areas, next to the water source, near shelter and underneath sheds.
  • If consumption is too high, spread tubs out and move them further away from heavy traffic areas.
Investing in a high-quality sheep nutrition program before forages start to decline is an investment in your flock’s overall productivity. Contact your local nutritionist to get started today.

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