ARDEN HILLS, Minn. — Nutritional flushing is a key component to sheep and goat breeding season success. The flushing process involves increasing nutrition and energy intake before breeding season starts. This elevated nutrition helps optimize ovulation, conception and embryo implantation rates, which can result in a higher lambing or kidding percentage.
“Implementing a flushing program on your farm can optimize the percentage of lambs or kids on the ground and help put more money in your pocket,” says Clay Elliott, a small ruminant nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition.
The low-down on flushing
Flushed ewes and does have a higher chance of breeding at first service, while those fed a lower nutrition level are more likely to miss this first breeding window.
“Breeding ewes and does in their first estrus or heat cycle provides more value when selling weaned lambs and kids,” says Elliott. “Breeding earlier means lambing and kidding sooner, which provides an advantage of additional days to gain weight before weaning compared to their younger counterparts – which can ultimately boost the number of pounds sold post-weaning.”
As ewes and does age, reproductivity tends to decrease. Additionally, terminal breeds typically produce fewer offspring than maternal breeds. Because flushing supports ovulation and embryo implantation rates, even ewes and does with historically lower reproductive performance can have success.
Don’t skimp on key nutrients
While adding extra grain to the diet will ramp up energy levels, don’t forget about these key nutrients as you plan your flushing program:
- Vitamins and minerals: Every nutrition program should start with vitamins and minerals. Regardless of the production stage, these two components remain crucial to both the mom and her offspring.
- Fat: Increasing fat in the diet also increases energy intake. And, fat’s influence on reproductive hormones sets ewes and does up for successful conception.
- Protein: Maintaining protein levels between 10-16% of the total diet is ideal for reproductive health.
Flushing should begin around 45-60 days before breeding and continue into the first stages of gestation. Adding a complete feed or a high-fat supplement product to the mix will ensure ewes and does meet their energy requirements during this critical time.
“Once ewes and does have confirmed pregnancies, diets can back down to an average nutrition level with pasture and a supplement tub,” says Elliott.
Keep body condition score in mind
As a primary indicator of energy reserves, body condition score (BCS) allows producers to evaluate the nutritional needs of the flock or herd. By meeting your BCS targets, ewes and does can take less time to breed and have heavier lambs or kids at weaning.
As ewes and does enter different production stages, their target BCS changes – and changes to their diet should follow suit. This 1-5 BCS scale is especially useful before breeding as energy requirements and BCS goals increase.
“Flushing aims to bring body condition scores up to 2.5 to 3.0 before breeding and into the first stage of gestation,” says Elliott. “Getting ewes and does to this condition can lead to optimal conception and embryo survival rates.”
Using a planned-out flushing approach in the lead-up to breeding season will go a long way towards reproductive and performance success. Contact your local Purina nutritionist or visit purinamills.com to learn more.
Purina Animal Nutrition LLC (www.purinamills.com) is a national organization serving producers, animal owners and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven to unlock the greatest potential in every animal, the company is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, premixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is headquartered in Arden Hills, Minn. and a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.
–Purina Animal Nutrition LLC