When we began to sell Finnsheep breeding stock in the early 90's, some of our customers that had never raised Finnsheep were asking us how we fed this highly prolific breed. Unfortunately, they usually didn't ask this question until after they had already experienced some problems. Typical problems related to us by our customers were:
It doesn't take a college education to understand that a ewe carrying or nursing three or more lambs requires more energy and protein than one with a single or a twin. Below I have reproduced nutritional data from the SID Sheep Production Handbook for singles and twins and have extrapolated the increased requirements for triplets. To conserve space I will only show data for two weight groups of mature ewes. Ewe lambs require more feed, since they are still growing during gestation and lactation. Ewes carrying quads or quints will need even more nutrients.
|First 15 Weeks Gestation||3.1||3.3||1.7||1.8||0.29||0.31|
|Last 4 Weeks Gestation (130%-150%)*||4.0||4.2||2.3||2.4||0.42||0.44|
|Last 4 Weeks Gestation (180%-225%)*||4.2||4.4||2.8||2.9||0.47||0.49|
|Last 4 Weeks Gestation (225%-300%)*||4.4||4.6||3.3||3.4||0.52||0.54|
|First 6-8 Weeks Lactation (single)||5.5||5.7||3.6||3.7||0.73||0.76|
|First 6-8 Weeks Lactation (twin)||6.2||6.6||4.0||4.3||0.92||0.96|
|First 6-8 Weeks Lactation (triplet)||6.9||7.5||4.4||4.9||1.11||1.16|
|Last 4-6 Weeks Lactation (single)||4.0||4.2||2.3||2.4||0.42||0.44|
|Last 4-6 Weeks Lactation (twin)||5.5||5.7||3.6||3.7||0.73||0.76|
|Last 4-6 Weeks Lactation (triplet)||7.0||7.2||4.9||5.0||1.04||1.08|
|DM = Dry Matter, TDN = Total
Digestible Nutrient, CP = Crude protein|
Numbers are in pounds of feed constituent per ewe
* Numbers in parentheses are expected lambing percentage
|Feed Nutritional Needs|
It is very important that you know what the energy and protein levels of your feed stuff are. Below are some average numbers for some of the common materials. For other materials check with your feed supplier.
|Values for Common Feeds|
We normally feed our ewes a medium quality alfalfa hay with a 14% to 17% crude protein level during late gestation and lactation. Our grain feed is made up of corn, a protein supplement and a couple of other ingredients, mixed together to give a 12% to 14% protein level. We then use a computer program to calculate quantities of each component to feed to our ewes during the various stages.
Example: Let's say you only have one ewe that weighs 176 pounds and you are expecting triplets from her. You have decided you will only use corn as the grain component and you have some over-mature alfalfa hay that is only 13% CP with a TDN of 50%. Your corn is average with a 10% CP and a TDN of 91%. You have decided to feed the ewe one pound of grain a day and all the hay she can eat during late gestation. After she lambs you have decided to keep all three lambs on her, but you are going to increase the corn to two pounds a day and still give her all the hay she will eat.
According to our chart this ewe should consume 4.6 pounds of feed material on a dry basis during late gestation. Since both the corn and hay we have run about 88% dry matter, that means we will need to feed the ewe 4.6/.88=5.23 pounds of feed a day to compensate for moisture. We already said she will get one pound of corn, so that means we should give her 4.23 pounds of hay per day.
If we feed the ewe one pound of corn and 4.23 pounds of hay per day she will g et the following nutrients during late gestation.
CP = (1.0 x .10)+(4.23 x .13) = 0.65
TDN = (1.0 x .91)+(4.23 x .50) =3.03
In this example the ewe will be getting sufficient protein (0.65 vs. 0.54 required), but will be deficient in energy (3.03 vs. 3.40 required), which is a very important nutrient during this critical stage of pregnancy. To get enough energy the ewe will consume more hay if she is fed free choice. Theoretically, she would need 0.74 pounds of additional hay to satisfy this need. If we had decided to feed the ewe no grain and only hay, the ewe would need to consume 6.8 pounds of hay to meet the energy needs, which is an additional 1.57 pounds of dry matter to be consumed. I think you can start to see how important it is to match the right amount and type of feed material to the needs of the high producing ewe. Unfortunately, most ewes don't stop consuming free choice hay at their calculated allotment. They usually consume an excess, which may surpass the needed quantity by a substantial amount and cause prolapse problems.
Getting back to the example, if the object is to limit the ewes intake to the calculated dry matter quantity needed, we need to increase the corn to 2 pounds and decrease the hay down to 3.23 pounds, which will give us a TDN of 2*0.91+3.23*0.50=3.44.
During early lactation the needs increase dramatically from a TDN of 3.4 to 4.9 and a CP of 0.54 to 1.16 with a DM increase from 4.6 to 7.5 pounds. To get this much dry matter we need to feed 8.52 pounds of feed materials. We said earlier we want to feed her two pounds of corn, which will leave her 6.52 pounds of hay to consume.
CP=(2 x 0.10)+ (6.52 x 0.13) = 1.05
TDN=(2 x 0.91)+(6.52 x 0.50) = 5.08
The energy needs will be met, but she will have to consume an additional 0.85 pounds of hay to meet her protein needs. The addition of a protein supplement would also satisfy this deficiency and make more sense.
Currently we are using the following feed blend for our ewes during flushing, late gestation and lactation. The mix gives approximately a 12.0% protein blend.
Corn ____________________ 87.0%
Kent 34% Supplement _____ 6.7%
Fish Meal _______________ 1.7%
Molasses ________________ 1.7%
Kent Oreo Krumbles ______ 1.0%
Kent Protector E ________ 0.3%
The Kent 34% supplement contains alfalfa meal, soybean meal and several vitamin and mineral supplements and Lasalocid for the treatment of coccidiosis and has 34% CP. The fish meal has a CP of 60% and has been reported to be an easier digestible protein substance. The Oreo Krumbles contains the antibiotic Chlortetracycline as well as vitamin A and D3. The Protector E provides vitamin E and minor amounts of other vitamins. Vitamin E is essential for the assimilation of Selenium and there has been some evidence that it contributes to the ewes effectiveness of producing multiple eggs and nurturing them to birth.
I crack the corn slightly and then mix the ingredients together. The molasses helps keep the dust down and makes the feed more palatable and prevents selective eating.
Our flock also has access to free choice loose mineral supplement especially made for sheep. Currently we prefer Land of Lakes Sheep Mineral.
Today (1998) we still follow this feeding method very closely. As a rule of thumb we usually feed the corn/protein mixture to our ewes starting about 4 weeks before the first ewe lambs at about one pound per ewe per day. At two weeks from lambing we increase this up to about two pounds. After lambing we like to feed one pound of this grain mixture per ewe per lamb. If we leave three lambs on a ewe we give her three pounds of this grain mixture. In all cases they have free choice of all the alfalfa hay they can eat. During lactation we keep all the ewes with single and twins together and all ewes nursing triplets or quads are fed separately.
During our eleven years of feeding Finns, the most important things to consider are: