Pre-calving and pre-lambing nutrition for ewes and cows - Elders Rural Services

Pre-calving and pre-lambing nutrition for ewes and cows

Condition score of livestock is the number one driver of profit. Many factors can affect what condition score ewes or cows are currently in, such as feed on offer (FOO), supplementary feeding rates and quality, and current nutritional demand. As we approach calving or lambing, it’s important to carefully manage each factor to maximise growth.

Prior to lambing, a ewe’s nutritional requirements increase but do not peak until 2-3 weeks into lactation. This explains why it is so important to have our breeders in Condition Score 3 – 3.3 at lambing/calving, especially for multiple bearing ewes. A single condition score can equate to an extra 15-20% more lambs at marking time, consequently having direct effects on profitability.

During lactation, the nutritional demand peaks, with twin bearing 65kg Merino ewes requiring the equivalent of almost 3kg of barley per ewe a day, 20-30 days after lambing! This is a near impossible task, and again requires good nutritional management to get as close as possible to this, while also having the ewe in excellent condition for them to safely fill any gap.

If cows or ewes are in sub-ideal condition leading into calving/lambing, then we can expect greater lambing/calving difficulties, higher ewe mortalities, and reduced marking percentages and weaning weights. This potential loss more than outweighs the costs associated with maintaining cows/ewes in good condition from weaning to joining and right through to lambing.

Figure 1: Energy requirements of 65 kg Merino ewes MJ ME/Day. Data from

The above highlights the importance of good nutrition being achieved, either by paddock feed, supplementary or both. Now is an important time for breeders to carefully manage nutrition to to ensure less difficulties with lambing/calving, lower mortality rates, and ultimately higher marking percentages and weaning weights.

For more information about weight management for ewes and cows, contact your local Elder Livestock Production Advisor. Elders’ End of Financial Year Catalogue is now live offering savings on key animal health products, including weight management tools, supplements and troughs. Click here to view the catalogue and contact your local branch for further information.


The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your specific circumstances.  Before undertaking any livestock management activities, you should contact your local Elders livestock production advisor.