Protein quality key to ewe perfromance

The protein requirement of the ewe increases significantly during late pregnancy and into early lactation. To ensure that we meet these requirements, it is important to not only know how much protein she is eating but also where this protein is coming from and in what form.

The protein content of forages varies significantly between plant varieties and particularly between upland and lowland systems. Typically lowland grazing has a higher protein content than upland grazing and is also much more available in the rumen. Acknowledging this difference in protein supply from upland and lowland systems is critical to optimising animal performance and deciding what supplement or feed to give to your ewes.

During mid-pregnancy, ewes on upland grazing will benefit from being fed a source of rumen protein such as urea. However, for this urea to be effectively utilised it is essential that the diet also contains sufficient energy to fuel the rumen microbes and extra sulphur (which is very low in upland grazing) to improve fibre digestion and rumen function.

As pregnancy progresses the protein requirement of the ewe increases and in most situations the quality of forage offered also improves. This normally means an increase in the supply of rumen protein and in these cases it is not wise to feed extra urea. In late pregnancy and early lactation, the ewe’s protein requirements cannot be met by the rumen alone and at this stage it is the supply of quality feed protein (particularly by-pass protein) that becomes the key to animal performance.

Historically fishmeal was the gold standard for protein quality, but in its absence the next best source is soya, followed by distiller’s dark grains and then rapeseed meal. Protected soya and rape are better still. The benefits of improved protein nutrition are numerous:

  • Higher lamb birth weights
  • Increased colostrum quality and quantity
  • Higher milk yields
  • Higher liveweight gain of newborn lambs
  • Improved ewe immunity and lower worm burden

Lamb performance can also be enhanced by supplementing ewes with omega-3 fish oils, which increases birth weights by up to 200 grams and results in lambs that get to their feet quicker and start suckling earlier. Vitamin E and selenium are also key at this stage. It is unlikely that one supplement will cover all your ewes’ requirements, so when choosing your supplementary ewe feeds (blocks, licks, liquids or compounds), first ask yourself a few questions:

  1. 1. What type of grazing or forage will the ewes be eating?
  2. At what stage of pregnancy are the ewes?
  3. Should I be feeding a supplement with urea?
  4. What are the main protein sources in the supplement? - particularly important in late pregnancy and early lactation 5.
  5. Will my ewes benefit from the extra cost of a protected protein?
Give your lambs the start they need

Probivit Plus is a natural supplement which gives protection against harmful bacteria, improves digestion efficiency and tops up essential vitamins in newborn calves, lambs and piglets.

Contains high level of live multi-strain beneficial bacteria (probiotics), and the correct levels of vitamins as follows: A - 500iu/ml, D3 - 50iu/ml, E - 100iu/ml, B12 - 12mcg/ml.

For routine birth, before and after changes of diet or weaning, and before periods of stress e.g. transport, weaning, de-horning, castration, vaccination etc.

  • Ensures a healthy start
  • Improves digestion efficiency
  • Helps keep out hramful bacteria (e.g. E Coli)
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Aids quicker and more economical growth
For more information contact Farmcare Products on 02866348469 or 07836786592
or email
  • Market leader for ewes in late pregnancy
  • Rich source of digestible energy
  • Helps prevent twin lamb disease
  • Rich source of by-pass protein
  • Contains Omega 3 for newborn vitality
  • High protein energy supplement for hill sheep in mid pregnancy
  • 20% protein fortified with trace elements and vitamins
  • 3% slow release urea & sulphur to help digest coarse roughage
  • High protein energy feed block for productive lowland and hill farms
  • 20% protein fortified with trace elements and vitamins
  • Enhances forage digestibility
  • Contains Omega 3 fish oils