ARDEN HILLS, Minn. — 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,” says Clay Elliott, Ph.D., small ruminant nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “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 ewe fertility this fall with these four nutrition tips:
1. Make mineral the foundation
The foundation of any ewe 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,” says Elliott. “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 a 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,” says Elliott. “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 sheep need to support fertility, especially when forage quality and quantity decline,” says Elliott. “My 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,” says Elliott. “Purina® Accuration® Hi-fat Tub was designed so sheep only consume what they need and nothing more.”
As forage quality declines, 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,” says Elliott. “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 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 ewe nutrition program before forages start to decline is an investment in your flock’s overall productivity. Contact your local Purina nutritionist to get started today.
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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