Energy is King - Meeting Ewe Energy Requirements

May 23, 2022

With the West Australian ewe flock currently either starting to lamb or getting close to it, Milne sheep specialist, Wayne Manoni, provides a timely reminder about the importance of managing ewes’ energy requirements.

‘So much is always said about protein, but at this time of year “energy is king” and we believe it’s worthwhile investing some time and energy into this management area,’ Wayne says.

Given a reasonable rain over much of WA last week, ewe nutrition could be an area that gets put on the backburner, as seeding can very easily (and rightfully so) take pole position. The importance of the energy requirements of the ewe flock can then fade slightly and we can simply revert to doing what we have always done, to the detriment of our now highly valuable four-legged “friends”.

Energy requirements are a vital part of sheep production. Ewes, in particular, both mated and lactating, have the widest variability in energy requirement of any of the classes of sheep, due to the nutritional demands of late pregnancy and lactation.  Underfeeding during lactation is a common oversight. As a breeding prospect, if the ewe is neglected it can, and does, have a significant impact on the entire enterprise.

There are many factors that will cause energy requirements to be varied.  These include, but are not limited to, distance to both feed and water, shade, quality of feed available, current nutrition status/body condition score and whether they are pregnant, dry or lactating. 

Energy requirements for ewes will peak approximately 20-25 days after lambing, however, energy requirements actually start to gradually increase right back at early pregnancy and take a sharp rise in later pregnancy, before reaching the peak during the lactation period. 

Late pregnancy also sees an increase the ewes’ requirement for protein, along with our featured “energy”, with upwards of approximately 15% CP required for the final stage of gestation.

These two key nutritional components, energy and protein, both need to be met to maximise reproductive performance, support the growth of both the foetus and the newborn lamb, and maintain ewe body score.  Increasing the supplementary feed from 500 grams per day to 800-1000g/day at the point of lambing will go a long way towards meeting the elevated energy and protein requirements for ewes on pastures or stubbles. It also helps support heavier lamb birth weights, particularly for those ewes carrying twins.   

Another point of note is that the traditional practice of feeding grains can cause acidosis and energy waste, with between 10-20% of the energy from grain passing through the animal undigested.  With current grain pricing, this energy loss can be a costly exercise.  Calcium and phosphorus are also key minerals necessary to support the rapid bone and tissue growth of lambs in late pregnancy.  These are typically deficient and/or imbalanced in grains and cereal roughage, and therefore additional supplementation is required to correct these shortfalls.

Wayne suggests that producers need to challenge traditional feeding methods in order to improve lambing percentages, birth weights and, most importantly, productivity – all of which equals increased profit.

Milne Feeds’ EasyOne® is a high-quality, high-fibre pellet that supplies optimum protein and energy for sheep production.  The pellet contains 14.5% protein and 11MJ/kg energy. It can be safely fed to ewes to maintain and increase body condition score, without the risk of acidosis typically observed when feeding traditional grain mixes.

EasyOne® pellets also provide consistent levels of essential nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus, formulated at levels suited to late pregnancy and early lactation.  These minerals are optimally balanced to achieve a calcium to phosphorus ratio that meets or exceeds the desired 2:1 during late pregnancy.  A balanced Ca:P also supports quality colostrum production and balanced milk yields to aid rapid lamb growth during lactation. 

So, this is the perfect time to put some attention and “energy” into your ewe flock coming into lambing, make the feed choice an EasyOne®. 

For further information call sheep specialists, Wayne Manoni 0427 099 002 or Brett Blanchett 0429 884 528, to discuss your feed requirements, or speak with the Milne Feeds nutritionist Joshua Sweeny 0432 219 274. Orders can be placed directly on our orders line 08 9351 0726.

                                          Energy Requirement for Maintenance of Ewes (MJ/kg/day)

Source: Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DIPRD).