In the last few weeks of pregnancy, when lambs are growing rapidly inside ewes, carrying out blood profiles to check on the adequacy of the diet could pay dividends.
This was according to independent consultant Kate Phillips, who said at the teleconference farmers often thought blood testing was too expensive, but it could definitely be worth it.
Costing about £5 per ewe, the test indicated whether energy and protein levels were adequate and should be taken from eight ewes per group, three to four weeks before lambing.
“The level of betahyroxyburyrate, which is produced when fat is mobilised in the body, indicates whether energy supplies are sufficient to meet the needs of ewes and their lambs.
“If the levels are too high then some adjustments to the diet might be necessary. This may not be anything to do with the total amount of feed presented to the ewes - but maybe some ewes cannot get their fair share, so make sure to check there is adequate trough and rack space.”
About 15cm (6in) trough space should be provided for ewes on ad-lib feeding and 20cm (8in) for those on restricted access.
If energy supplies were low, additional supplements or better quality forage may need to be provided, but this came with a warning from Ms Phillips.
She said: “Be careful what you offer as excess concentrates can be counterproductive, even if larger meals of starchy feeds are given.
“Beet pulp is a palatable alternative and provides sugar and digestible fibre, or an energy lick could also be useful.
“If blood urea and albumen levels are too low then additional protein may be needed.”
Testing at three to four weeks before lambing gave enough time to make adjustments before it was too late and twin lamb disease or poor colostrum supplies became a problem.