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Nutrition plan of ewe lambs from weaning to mating

Solution name: Nutrition plan of  ewe lambs from weaning to mating

Aim: to stimulate the growth and development of lambs for early entry into production.

Description: nutritional requirements of ewe-lambs are poorly known, hence mistakes can be made, with lasting effects on the lifetime performance of ewes. For example, a surplus of feed supply from weaning of lambs to mating, can cause an excessive deposition of fat and connective tissue in the udder. Is of utmost importance to check the growth of the lambs so as to achieve target body weights at different ages and a weight at mating of at least 60-65% of the adult ewe weight. Underweight ewe-lambs appear not to respond either to dietary flushing or to cycle-activating and synchronising hormone treatments.

Topic: Nutrition

Production:  Dairy / Meat

Animal Category: Replacement

Issue: Growth targets for 1st lambing at 1 year of age

Level of Solution: Practical

Country: Italy






How to implement it

To define the feeding plan for ewe lambs, it is necessary to consider the way in which their udder develops. There are three developmental stages: phase 1 (1-3 months), the ewe’s udder grows in line with its weight; phase 2 (before puberty, months 4-6) it grows more than its weight, with the formation of the mammary parenchyma and ducts (secretory tissue); phase 3 (months 7-9), where the growth is regulated by the estrous cycle. To avoid an overgrowth in phase 2, so as not to infiltrate the udder with fat and connective tissue, the following dietary pattern should be adapted.

Phase Age (months)

Phase duration


Target body weight (kg) Average  daily gain (g/day) Feeding
1a 0-1.5 45 12 180-200 Colostrum/suckled milk + “weaning”concentrate (19-20% Crude protein (CP), 30-32% starch, 5-6 % Crude Fiber (CF), including whey and possibly a pre-probiotic) creep-fed ad libitum up to an intake of at least 200 g/day per lamb with the ewes milked thoroughly once a day from the beginning of the third week. It is thus possible to wean at 30-35 days.
1b 1.5-3 45 18-20 130-150 Shift from “weaning” to “growth” concentrate (17% CP, 33-35% starch, 7-8% CF) up to a maximum of 30-35 g/kg live weight + good quality hay ad libitum
2 4-6 90 22-24 40-60 200 g/day  of “Breeding” concentrate (15-16% CP, 27-29% starch, 9-11% CF) + hay ad libitum + rationed grazing.*
3 7-9 (mating) 90 32-35 100-120

300-400 g/day  of “Breeding” concentrate + hay ad libitum grazing**

Possible flushing of underweight lambs

* Before grazing, vaccination against clostridia and monitoring of gastro-intestinal parasites
 **Additional gastro-intestinal parasite check at least 1 month before the start of the mating season. Ensure mineral blocks and vitamin supplementation

Lambs should be allotted to groups of homogeneous age/weight. In case of simultaneous feeding, allocate a trough space of at least 20 cm per animal if suitable racks are not available.

Expected benefits
  • Early entry into production
  • Higher milk production at first lactation
  • Healthier animals
Prerequisites and/or limits

Weighing at target ages (see table). Breeds other than the Sarda shall have different target weights. For other dairy sheep breeds increase or decrease the weights according to the mature other breed/Sarda breed weight ratio.

Information Source / Usefull links

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