It's vital to get the balance right with concentrates
Given the high costs of laying down fat in the carcase, allowing lambs to become over-weight or over-fat for the market specifications will also reduce profit margins.
Lambs moving from the target fat class of three to fat class four reduces profit margin by approximately €1 per head.
Lying space and feed space requirements are also critically important with indoor feeding systems. Table 2 includes recommendations for space allowances for indoor fed lambs under a range of conditions
Diet formulation is of critical importance if high levels of concentrate are being used.
High levels of concentrate supplementation can challenge the animal's rumen and must be managed accordingly to minimise risk of metabolic disease, especially acidosis. Lambs will perform very well on high concentrate diets, assuming rumen function is maintained.
Introduce and build concentrate feedstuff consumption slowly. Start on 250- 300g per day and increase by 200g every three days.
Avoid situations where lambs are excessively hungry coming to the trough or have the opportunity to gorge on concentrates.
Inclusion of concentrate ingredients with highly digestive fibre, such as soya hulls, beet pulp and citrus pulp, can help to support normal rumen function.
Inclusion of whole grain in the diet will also slow down rumen fermentation without negatively impacting animal performance.
There is an unfounded fear that whole grain will pass straight through the digestive system without being digested. This is not the case, especially with sheep.
Another risk factor with high level concentrate feeding especially where the concentrate feeds are based on cereal grains is urinary calculi, which occurs predominantly in male lambs.
Urinary calculi is essentially a form of kidney stones which can block the flow of urine leading to death. It can be prevented through careful dietary formulation.
Key items to consider include the calcium to phosphorous ratio in the diet, with a minimum of 2:1.
Magnesium content should be closely monitored. With cereal-based diets no additional magnesium supplementation is required.
Also additional salt, at around 1pc, will promote water intake and serve to flush out the urinary tract, thus reducing the risk of mineral deposits forming.
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