Flush Feeding Maximizes Sheep Breeding Success

Sheep breeders can improve chances for fertility and multiples by increasing quality feed (known as flush feeding) strategically before breeding time.

by Rachel Porter
PHOTO: Rachel Porter

Fall breeding is happening now and diligent hobby farmers are doing everything in their power to ensure success—including flush feeding.

Flush feeding refers to increasing nutrition intake for sheep prior to breeding. This technique has been shown to optimize conception rate and the chance of multiples. Being intentional about flush feeding is a proven way to increase lambing percentage, and thus increase the profitability of a sheep farm.

The Advantages of Flush Feeding

Flush feeding, in short, involves increasing animal feed to encourage improved breeding rates. This is most often achieved by providing ewes supplementary high-quality feed with the goal of increasing weight gain and thereby:

  • Increasing lambing percentage
  • Improving contraception rates
  • Ensuring optimal ovulation rate
  • Increasing odds of multiples
  • Increasing energy rates  

Read more: Check out this video for more tips for a better sheep breeding season.

The Hows of Flush Feeding Ewes

Flush feeding using good-quality hay, fresh pasture and/or higher-protein grain should begin two to six weeks before breeding and continue into the first stage of gestation. There are several combinations of feed available to use. All regimens should be high in protein (between 10 to 16 percent), high in fat, and high in vitamins and minerals. 

Body condition and overall health of animals plays a large role in the success of pregnancy.  The goal is to reach a 3.5 rating for animals’ body conditioning.

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Ewes in poor condition can easily get pregnancy toxemia because their body has to  break down its own fat to meet nutritional needs of the embryo. Overly fat ewes are also susceptible to stress syndrome of pregnancy toxemia because the extra weight is too hard on their body.

Assessing body condition and treating nutritionally will be the best way to ensure safe pregancy for your ewes. 

Read more: Here’s how you can evaluate the body conditioning score of your sheep this breeding season.

Feeding Improves Virility of Rams, Too

Don’t forget about the rams! This feeding technique can also maximize sperm production and energy levels in rams. This nutritional boost prior to breeding season can double the sperm count.

Body condition is also important for rams at breeding time. 

Understanding ideal body conditions and intentionally feeding your flock in preparation for breeding season are manageable steps for all hobby harmers to increase their spring profits. 

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