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Requirements During Lactation

During the first few weeks following lambing, a lactating ewe requires about the same feed as in late gestation, provided she is nursing a single lamb. The requirements shown in table 3 are for a lactating ewe that is producing 3 pounds of milk per day.

If the lamb does not consume all the milk produced daily, the ewe produces less milk and uses any excess energy to store fat.

Ewes suckling twin lambs normally do not deposit fat because the nutrient supply (primarily energy) does not meet the requirements of the lactating ewe. For maximum rate and efficiency of lamb gains, separate ewes nursing twin lambs from those nursing singles and feed accordingly. It is practically impossible to provide high-producing ewes nursing twin lambs enough feed during lactation to prevent loss of body weight. From a practical standpoint, these ewes must have reserves of body fat to maintain high levels of milk production. It is imperative that high-producing ewes are of acceptable body condition prior to lambing.

Table3. Daily nutrient requirements of sheep*

More information about noted topics can be found at the end of this page.

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Flushing-2 weeks prebreeding and first 3 weeks of breeding

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Nonlactating-First 15 weeks gestation

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Last 4 weeks gestation (130-150% lambing rate expected) or last 4-6 weeks lactation suckling singlesd

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Last 4 weeks gestation (180-225% lambing rate expected)

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First 6-8 weeks lactation suckling singles or last 4-6 weeks lactation suckling twinsd

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First 6-8 weeks lactation suckling twins

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Nonlactating-First 15 weeks gestation

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Last 4 weeks gestation (100-120% lambing rate expected)

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Last 4 weeks gestation (130-175% lambing rate expected)

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First 6-8 weeks lactation suckling singles (wean by 8 weeks)

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First 6-8 weeks lactation suckling twins (wean by 8 weeks)

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Replacement ewe lambse

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Replacement ram lambse

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Lambs finishing-4 to 7 months oldf

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Early weaned lambs-Moderate growth potentialf

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Early weaned lambs-Rapid growth potentialf

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*Reprinted with permission from Nutrient Requirements of Sheep, 6th ed. © 1985 by the National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

aTo convert dry matter to an as-fed basis, divide dry matter values by the percentage of dry matter in the particular feed.

bOne kilogram TDN (total digestible nutrients) = 4.4 Mcal DE (digestible energy); ME (metabolizable energy) = 82% of DE.

cValues are applicable for ewes in moderate condition. Fat ewes should be fed according to the next lower weight category and thin ewes at the next higher weight category. Once desired or moderate weight condition is attained, use that weight category through all production stages.

dValues in parentheses are for ewes suckling lambs the last 4 to 6 weeks of lactation.

eLambs intended for breeding, thus, maximum weight gains and finish are of secondary importance.

fMaximum weight gains expected.