Feed meal supplements to make up for poor pastures
As I write, the cold spell is still with us and even though the days are somewhat milder, we are still getting hard frost at night. Soil temperatures, according to Met Eireann, hovered between 1.6 and 4.7°C, depending on location, in the period from March 4-10. These figures are still below the 6°C required for growth and are back about 3°C from where they would normally be for this time of year.
Where fertiliser has not yet been applied, a chance may have to be taken that the weather will, at some stage, have to turn for the good. Certainly, having the fertiliser in the yard and the spreading equipment at the ready is important so that you can jump when the opportunity arises.
Until grass growth kicks off and ewe-suckling lambs get access to good quality grass, meals will have to be fed to make up the shortfall. I have already covered this issue in detail in my article two weeks ago, but let's recap. The levels of meal that will be required per ewe per day will depend on how much grass is available, the quality of the grass, the body condition of the ewe and how many lambs the ewe is rearing.
I suggest that the minimum supplementation rate on most lowland farms will be 1kg/hd/day until grass heights reach 4cm of good grass (as opposed to dead material that has been sitting there over the winter). In situations where there is little or no roughage available then this level may have to be increased to double that figure.
When lactating ewes are being fed at grass, aim to supplement them with fibre-based concentrates rather than starchy ones. Suitable ingredients are oats, citrus pulp, beet pulp, distillers, soyabean meal, rapeseed, gluten and soya hulls. The last three ingredients are low in energy and should therefore not be included at high rates.
If winter forage stocks are running low and there is insufficient grass available to turn out, consider feeding ad-lib meals. All categories of sheep can be fed ad-lib meal, providing that it is balanced to meet their nutritional requirements.
Dry or weaned ewes will require 0.8ufl in energy terms plus 100g of protein a day. About 0.9kg of an 11pc protein ration will achieve this and, provided that there is at least 7pc fibre in the ration, there will be no requirement for roughage. Take care when introducing the ration and gradually build the sheep up to the 0.9kg level. It should be fed in two feeds at least eight hours apart.