Managing cows and ewes during pregnancy - Elders Rural Services

Managing cows and ewes during pregnancy

Has there ever been a better time to have breeding stock? Not in my lifetime. Both the cattle herd and sheep flock are in rebuilding mode. Be that as it may, reproductive performance is obviously fundamental. If we overlay that with the perceived impact of livestock on the environment, reproductive efficiency should be the key focus.

Following, in most areas of eastern Australia, a very good season, conception rates in early 2021 have been very good. This, however, is only the start of the game. Being in front at half time is good, but it doesn’t win the game. The toughest part of the game is in front of us – getting calves or lambs to weaning.

  • Condition score of females is the key determinant of reproductive performance.
  • Condition is energy stored as fat and muscle.
  • Cows and ewes should be in at least CS 3 (CS > 3.3 for multiple bearing ewes) 6 weeks prior to birth.

Cows and ewes, will at some stage, need to draw down on the energy stored in fat and muscle. In some cases, females will lose a full condition score during lactation, hence the aphorism “milking off their backs”. The breakdown of fat and muscle (catabolism) produces ketones, which if not managed, may result in sickness and death.

In the first three months after calving or lambing, females require a diet with concentrated levels of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, much of the 2020 produces fodder is high in fibre, which effectively dilutes these critical nutrients. I would strongly advise producers to test feeds, particularly forages before feeding to peri-natal females.

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