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Ewe nutrition post weaning

By Leesa Flanagan - Ruminant Technical Services
Published 11th September 2023

Ewe nutrition and body condition have a significant influence on conception rates, and consequently, lambing rates. Lamb survival is highly correlated with birth weight, where the optimum birth weight is 4.5 to 5.5kg. A ewe with a body condition score (BCS) lower than 3 will have an influence on the nutrient supply to the lambs, effecting their weights at birth, and their chances of survival. Condition scoring is a quick and simple method to assess and monitor the reserves of sheep, ensuring they are in target condition for joining, and throughout lambing and lactation. Contact the NFS ruminant team for more information or training regarding body condition scoring your sheep.

(Body condition scoring of sheep on a scale of 1 to 5. Source: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA.)


Preparation for joining begins at weaning, where the BCS of ewes should be assessed and those with a BCS of 2.5 and below should be preferentially fed to pick up their condition. Often ewes that have raised twins will lose a significant amount of condition through lactation and require support to adequately prepare them for the next joining.  Maiden ewes should aim to be mated at around 75-80% of their mature body weight. Confinement feeding low condition or maiden ewes is a commonly used method to ensure stock are prepared for joining.

Ideally, ewes should be in a BCS of 3-3.5, with maidens aiming for 3.5. Maintaining a high plane of nutrition throughout lactation and weaning will not only promote good conception rates at joining but avoids lulls in wool production or weak points.

By maintaining an ideal BCS and meeting nutritional requirements leading up to and throughout the joining period, stock are better prepared for pregnancy. The energy and protein requirements increase substantially during pregnancy and lactation, often ewes are unable to eat enough to fufill these requirements with shrinking rumen space, and so require an adequate store of fat to mobalise if required.

During pregnancy ewes are predisposed to vitamin and mineral related issues as requirements are so high, specifically hypocalcemia due to low calcium, low magnesium (Hypomagnesaemia) and pregnancy toxemia as a consequence of low glucose and energy. Such deficiencies can also be exaggerated when grazing ewes on cereal crops. It is important to ensure vitamin, mineral and energy concentrations are maintained adequately during pregnancy and lactation, which means supplying supplements, starting from joining.

National Feed Solutions have a professionally formulated range of products to support your stock in any stage of production.

For more information regarding nutritional requirements of ewes at all stages of production, assistance with measuring feed on offer when grazing or supplementary diet formulations, feel free to contact the NFS Ruminant Team or ACE Consulting to have a chat.

Extra Links:


Visit AWI Limited, Lifetime Wool for a printable scoring card and guideline.

Beef Cattle:

Angus Australia have a detailed table on what key aspects to look for at each score.

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