Welcome to the hot days of summer. From mid-summer into fall, we should focus on breeding success for the traditional winter and early spring lambing season. By now, we have weaned and marketed the last lamb crop and turned our attention to evaluating the body condition of ewes, breeding soundness in both rams and ewes, and providing them with better nutrition.
In many areas, forage quality declines in mid to late summer. Combine this with the popularity of more intensive breeding programs, such as accelerated lambing and estrus synchronization, and proper supplementation is key to pregnancy rate, twinning rate, and more. Additionally, a lot of what we may consider our best ewes may not have recovered completely from the stress of lactation after the previous lamb crop.
Sheep fertility is most influenced by body condition score and energy status of the ewe. A common practice called “flushing” is used to provide more energy in the form of high-quality pasture and additional grain, increasing body condition prior to breeding. This rising nutrition plane improves the ovulation rate and, therefore, increases the lambing rate in the flock. The response to flushing is influenced by the age of the ewe (mature ewes show a greater response than yearlings), and ewes on a rising plane of nutrition, or those gaining body condition, will show a greater response in ovulation.
A primary benefit of feeding CRYSTALYX® is improved forage utilization. This will help boost the ewe’s overall energy status and can complement flushing. CRYSTALYX is also an excellent choice in a vitamin and mineral program at any time of year and especially in critical times, such as breeding.
Using CRYSTALYX has always benefited sheep and goat production. However, today, CRYSTALYX has more specific programs that offer further value during the breeding season. CRYSTALYX® Sheep-lyx™ and Goat-lyx™ were recently reformulated to meet the specifications of our Blueprint® nutrition programs, using only Bioplex® chelated trace minerals. They are now called Blueprint® Sheep-lyx™ and Blueprint® Goat-lyx®.
Forage quality will dictate your supplement choice. CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® Mineral, introduced a few years ago, works well on high-quality pastures, and Blueprint® Sheep-lyx™, containing supplemental protein, works with poorer quality forages. One important part of the CRYSTALYX Blueprint program for sheep is that both products contain Bio-Mos® 2, a yeast-derived prebiotic that supports performance by promoting good gut bacteria and overall gut health. This can help improve nutrient utilization of the diet, supporting animal energy status.
Helping producers breed better
Good fertility in a flock extends beyond the breeding period. Good nutrition and energy intake/status need to be maintained up to a month after breeding to help ewes maintain early pregnancy or decrease the chance of embryonic death loss in the weeks immediately following conception. Energy status in the ewe is critical in this stage. If she loses a pregnancy, she will then breed one or two heat cycles later or fail to breed at all, depending on the length of the breeding season.
Our experience of utilizing Blueprint products in sheep production has resulted in many satisfied customers. Producers have seen improved conception rates in a 35-day breeding season, higher live lamb birth rates (lamb drop rate), and enhanced lamb weaning rate and growth rates. I have personal experience with these programs in my family’s sheep operation and have seen similar results over the last several years. We have used the standard CRYSTALYX Sheep-lyx for years and incorporated the CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® Sheep mineral program into our flock four years ago. Our average live lambing percentage with our Suffolk cross ewes (including bred ewe lambs) bred naturally in an estrus synchronized system has seen a significant increase in this period.
The small ruminant business is important to us at CRYSTALYX brand supplements. We see this as a vibrant and growing segment of our business and one where we can help producers achieve success. Minor changes and corrections often make the biggest impact on successful nutrition. This is no truer than with Blueprint nutrition.