ARDEN HILLS, Minn. — While lambing season gets all the hype, breeding season is the key to your flock’s success. A successful breeding season means more ewes pregnant, more lambs on the ground and more money in your pocket. And a key to breeding success is offering your flock mineral.
“Many producers don’t use mineral or only use mineral if they have a problem pop up to save on cost,” says Clay Elliott, Ph.D. and small ruminant nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “But offering a mineral – or offering mineral longer – can more than pay for itself through optimized reproduction.”
Follow these mineral tips for breeding success:
Feed mineral longer
“Feeding mineral a month before breeding is common practice, but it isn’t enough time for ewes to get the most benefit from the mineral,” says Elliott. “Instead, start offering mineral at least 60 days before breeding and continue feeding throughout gestation.”
A longer timeline allows sheep to maximize intake, correct mineral deficiencies and achieve optimal breeding results.
Want to take your flock up a notch? Feed mineral year-round to help prevent deficiencies and the resulting challenges before they even happen.
“Feeding a mineral year-round can save you in the longrun,” says Maggie Amburgey, small ruminant technical specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “When you factor in the cost of potential lost pregnancies, poor conception rates, substandard performance and death loss, you realize how much a good mineral program can make a difference.”
Optimize mineral intake
“One of the main questions we get from producers is how much mineral sheep should eat,” says Elliott. “Low intake means your flock isn’t getting enough nutrients, and high intake means you’re paying for more mineral than sheep need.”
Sheep will often overconsume mineral when it’s first offered. This is normal, since sheep may be eating more to compensate for a mineral deficiency. Intake will level off several days after mineral is introduced and deficiencies are corrected.
Underconsumption is usually a result of mineral location. Place mineral feeders in high-traffic areas where sheep spend most of their time. Then, gradually shift mineral location to underused areas of pasture. Keep feeders clean and protected from the elements.
Look for a mineral that’s formulated for optimal intake levels to avoid over or underconsumption.
Don’t forget the calcium
One of the biggest things to look for in a mineral, especially when it comes to supporting reproduction, is calcium.
Bioavailability, or the ability to absorb the calcium and other minerals rather than passing through the animal, is another key feature. Look for a mineral with 90% or greater bioavailability to maximize effectiveness.
“Feeding a complete, bioavailable mineral ensures sheep get all the nutrients they need,” says Amburgey. “The mineral form can play a role, but the key things to evaluate is the calcium to phosphorus levels, mineral bioavailability and salt level.”
Mineral blocks are often used because they require less labor – you just set it and forget it. But, unlike mineral blocks which typically only contain trace minerals, Purina® Wind and Rain® Sheep Mineral is fortified with high levels of calcium as well as organic zinc, manganese and cobolt to help support reproduction.
“Providing a mineral year-round is a great option for producers looking to enhance their breeding program,” says Elliott. “Maggie and I are sheep producers ourselves and know first-hand what’s needed to support flocks and maximize profit potential – and we formulate our products with that in mind.”
Learn more about feeding mineral at purinamills.com/sheep-feed.
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
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