Ewe Nutrition is Key to Lamb Survival

Key Points

  • Tighter seasonal conditions may impact spring lambing results
  • Lamb survival is linked to maternal nutrition
  • Ewe nutritional requirements increase significantly from day 90 until lamb birth
  • Mineral, vitamin and trace elements provide great value to lambing ewes
  • StockMins-EweLamLac HE trial resulted in 3.3% more lambs and 6.1 kg heavier lambs at weaning

Change of season from last year

This time last year saw the beginning of one of the best spring seasons on record, with above average rainfall recorded across large swathes of the country.

While accompanied by increased worm pressures and hoof issues, spring rainfall last year provided large amounts of quality feed that boosted spring lambing activities.

However, with tighter seasonal conditions and recent forecasts suggesting little chance of a good spring break, feed is looking to be a concern for producers during the spring lambing period.

Lamb survival linked to material nutrition

Lamb and Ewe enjoying StockMins-EweLamLacAlthough there are many variables that may lead to mortality in pregnant ewes and newborn lambs, birth weight is the largest determinant of lamb survival, and is strongly linked to maternal nutrition.1

This view is supported by AusFarm Nutrition Products’ Chief Nutritionist, Dr Paul Meggison who has been working with producers to improve lamb survival over the past 45 years.

“If we look after the ewes, the results will be seen in lamb health and survival.”

“To achieve this, we aim for ewes to maintain a stable body condition score of 3 to 3.5 throughout pregnancy.”

However, in many cases this may be easier said than done.

Increasing nutritional requirements of pregnant ewe

Ewe nutritional requirements increase significantly from day 90 of pregnancy until lambing, around two months later, almost double in twin bearing ewes. Interestingly, a condition score change, say from 3.5 to 2.5, after day 90 can alter the lamb birth weight by 0.5kg. So, it’s important for the ewe to have a rising plane of nutrition to match increasing requirements during this crucial period.

“Essentially, the best feed should be reserved for the lambing paddocks when they need it the most” Dr. Meggison said.

This is especially important, because as the foetus and placenta grow, they take up an increasing amount of room in the abdomen of the ewe. This can squash the rumen and significantly reduce the ewe’s ability to consume feed.

Furthermore, effective pre-lambing worm management can have a huge impact on lamb survival. Worm burdens can significantly increase the nutritional requirements of the ewe, making it more difficult to maintain a stable condition score, regardless of feed quality.

Boost lamb survival with StockMins-EweLamLac HEEwes have a compromised immune system during pregnancy, so mild worm infections can become a much larger problem in a short period of time.

Mineral, vitamin and trace elements commonly overlooked

Commonly overlooked by producers, is the value of supplementing ewes with an effective lambing supplement that provides essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements.

According to Dr Meggison, macro minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium should not be overlooked.

“Like with energy, between late pregnancy and peak lactation, the outflow of minerals from the ewe into the lamb massively outstrips supply from feed alone.”

“Extreme deficiencies can lead to hypocalcaemia, however, well before they hit critical levels, mineral deficiencies affect essential bodily functions, leading to low immunity, poor production and stress.”

According to Dr. Meggison, “stressed ewes with poor mineral reserves and low immunity are more likely to lose lambs due to mismothering, starvation, dystocia and stillbirth.”

Minerals can also assist with feed conversion efficiency and energy metabolism helping to avoid pregnancy toxaemia. Similarly, trace elements and vitamins are essential for immune function when ewes and lambs are at their most vulnerable.

“Daily doses of essential trace elements including zinc, selenium, cobalt, copper, iodine and vitamins A, D and E during pregnancy and lactation can boost immunity and get ewes and lambs performing at their best”, he said.

Lamb survival is key

A one percent, two percent or five percent increase in the survival rate of lambs can generate thousands of dollars in previously unrealised profit, and the use of an effective mineral supplement during lambing can make this happen.

Dr Meggison states that “not all supplements are equal, and not all supplements generate the same results. The value of an effective lambing supplement is huge, with a recent study showing returns of almost four to one”.

A recent independent trial highlighted the significant value in supplementing pregnant ewes with a complete lambing supplement like StockMins-EweLamLac. “For 1,000 ewes supplemented the difference in revenue can be upwards of $16,000.”

Independent Trial: StockMins-EweLamLac HE lambing supplement vs Causmag®, lime and salt

A recent independent study compared the performance of ewes supplemented with Causmag (magnesium oxide), lime and salt (288 single bearing ewes) with ewes supplemented with StockMins-EweLamLac HE (197 single bearing ewes) over a 98-day period from 4 weeks pre-lambing until 4 weeks post-lambing.

The trial group offered StockMins-EweLamLac HE performed significantly better than Causmag, lime and salt, including:

  • 3% more lambs weaned
  • An average of 6.1kg heavier lambs at weaning
  • An average of 4.8kg heavier ewes at weaning

Click to see trial summary

What does this mean to your bottom line?

For 1,000 single bearing ewes over a 98-day supplementary period (4 weeks pre-lambing, 6 weeks lambing period and 4 weeks post-lambing), a sheep breeding operation can realise a $16,569 net income difference by supplementing with StockMins-EweLamLac HE over Causmag, lime and salt.

Greater than $16,000 net benefit in using StockMins-EweLamLac HE over CLS.

StockMins-EweLamLac is a weatherproof, granular, mineral supplement designed to supply pregnant and recently lambed ewes with balanced levels of essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements to assist in correcting deficiencies and boosting reserves during times of high demand.

StockMins-Hoof n Horn is a high specification weatherproof, granular supplement designed to be fed to assist in controlling lameness, strengthening hooves and boosting ewe immunity during times of high production stress such as lambing.

Please contact AusFarm Nutrition Products for more information on how StockMins-EweLamLac and StockMins-Hoof n Horn can help boost your lambing results this season.


  1. Oldham CM, Thompson AN, Ferguson MB, Gordon DJ, Kearney GA, Paganoni BL (2011) The birthweight and survival of Merino lambs can be predicted from the profile of liveweight change of their mothers during pregnancy. Animal Production Science 51, 776–783. doi:10.1071/ AN10155. ®Causmag is a registered product of Causmag International. StockMins-EweLamLac HE, StockMins-EweLamLac and StockMins-Hoof n Horn are products of AusFarm Nutrition Products.