It is well established that making very good quality silage (11 ME+) reduces costs in feeding pregnant ewes coming up to lambing for those who are lambing indoors. This will not be possible to do in all systems, but where it can be done there are considerable cost savings in concentrates. The reason it works so well is that high quality silages provide more energy per bite and due to improved digestibility, the ewe’s intakes of very good quality silages are much higher than poorer silages. The intake of silage also depends on how it is presented to the sheep. For example, short chop silages and total mixed ration (TMR) feeding increases intakes. If there is competition at the feed face, or forages are hard to get at, this reduces intakes and hence energy to the ewe. All these factors determine what we supplement forages with.
In high quality silage based feeding systems, soya has been our staple high quality protein source that has worked well for feeding in lamb ewes at 100g of soya per lamb carried, but we are now in a new era where there is increasing awareness of sourcing sustainable sources of protein. It is possible in this system to use alternatives to soya such as beans, dark grains, protected rapemeal products or cold pressed rapemeal but do seek advice as which supplement to use and the amount will depend on the protein of the high energy forage and how much ewes are eating. If intakes are not as expected or protein in the silage is low then this can cause problems.
Karen Stewart, email@example.com
Sign up to the FAS newsletter
Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service