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Keep your Ewes and Does in Shape for Lambing and Kidding

Winter isn’t just for calving. Sheep and goat producers are gearing up for lambing/kidding season, too.

The last month of gestation is a key time in gestational development. Fetuses are rapidly growing and the body is mobilizing nutrients for milk production. Space in the rumen becomes a limiting factor. The rapidly growing lambs or kids push the uterus into the space normally occupied by the rumen, leaving less and less space for feed. Consequently, the dam may not have enough room in the rumen to get all her energy needs fulfilled (especially on an all-forage diet).

This negative energy balance can cause ketosis, also known as pregnancy toxemia. Pregnancy toxemia usually occurs in the last few weeks of gestation in females that are thin or fat and carrying a large single or multiples. Since the dam physically can’t eat enough to meet her energy needs, the body starts burning fat. This may seem like a great idea, but the body isn’t as efficient at burning fat for energy as it is with carbohydrates. This can result in a build of ketones in the liver and result in pregnancy toxemia.

The symptoms of pregnancy toxemia include going completely off feed, lying down and refusing to get up when approached, depression and teeth grinding. You may also notice that the dam will have a ketone (sickly sweet) smell to their breath. The negative energy balance can also be accompanied by tremors, blindness or incoordination. Treatment options for a ewe or doe diagnosed with pregnancy toxemia revolve around getting energy into the dam. This generally means sugar (glucose) delivered via drench or IV along with other electrolytes.

Providing your ewes or does with an energy source in late gestation can help prevent, or even treat, pregnancy ketosis. Molasses-based supplements, such as CRYSTALYX®, provide a readily digestible source of energy for the rumen microbes. This in turn can help increase fiber digestibility in the rumen and thus more energy available to the dam. At a time where the dam’s intake (rumen space) is restricted by the fetal growth, maximizing every bite is key.

CRYSTALYX® offers a number of protein and mineral/vitamin supplements formulated especially for sheep and goat. Click on the 'By Species' tab above and select sheep or goat to learn more about these products.