Formulating any animal's diet is a complex process that is based upon many factors. This section covers the basics on some the factors that must be considered for efficient production in a ewe flock.
Overall, the nutrient requirements of the ewe depend on her size. This ties in with breed as sheep vary in size according to their breed. The condition score of the ewe is also related to size. The producer should consider the current body condition of the sheep versus what is desired. The previous nutrition status affects condition and stores of various nutrients, so it should be evaluated when formulating the new ration. This point is vital for production of meat, milk and wool, as well as for reproduction. Ewes pregnant with twins or triplets, especially if they are a bit fat, are susceptible to ketosis or lambing paralysis.
Sheep rations should be formulated on the basis of each animal's production stage. A ewe's production stage determines how much and what kind of feed should be fed. The stages when the required amount of nutrients must be supplied to avoid disaster are late gestation and lactation.
The production level desired is a factor that relates to the producer's goals for the operation. Some smaller flocks prolong the feeding period by utilizing low-cost, low-energy feed so the lambs can be sold when there is a good market price. However, the most profit usually is made by those who feed for optimum production.
The age of the ewe should be also be considered. Older ewes with teeth problems need a higher energy ground ration. Yearlings with lambs need a far higher level of nutrients than a mature ewe to accommodate lactation requirements plus their growth needs. Ignoring this need results in low conception and less gain.
Cost and availability of feedstuffs are two factors that sheep producers must consider to make sure the rations they formulate will be low cost yet nutritionally adequate. Money can be saved as long as the sheep are still being fed at a level that makes money.
Lastly, when formulating a ration, it is important to consider intake! Intake will vary with the weather conditions, health of the animal, feed palatability, as well as with the factors described previously. The daily nutrient requirements of a typical 150-pound ewe should be contained in 3.5-4.0 pounds of feed.
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