The ewe from here

A big cost to any breeding enterprise is the feed that is consumed by the dams.

Ewes eat a lot to just maintain themselves. But the longer that they are not being fed above maintenance the less they cost. They need to be fed above maintenance to lactate, get in lamb and to satisfy the latter part of a pregnancy. Outside those times the only justification to feed a ewe above maintenance is if it needs to gain condition for either mating or lambing.

Once the lambs are 70 or 80 days they do not need their mothers so restricting the ewes to maintenance can start from there. As they get closer to mating most ewes will perform better if they are fed above maintenance. For more fecund sheep that extra feeding can be minimal. For less fecund sheep that extra feeding can make a big difference.

Helping ewes in lower condition to put on condition before mating is very important. This requires them to be fed well above maintenance, which can mean offering a lot of choice because often that feed is low quality.

Being in condition score three or more at mating allows ewes to fully express their fecundity. What is more, our studies show that most ewes that end up in lower condition at lambing or at weaning were lighter going into the winter. Using summer feed to get that condition on is much less costly than using valuable pre-winter feed.

To gain one condition score a 60kg ewe needs to consume an extra 30kg of dry matter and the return on that dry matter is around 44 cents/kg DM. This is one of the most profitable uses of summer feed.

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