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Spike feeding: A Solution to Achieving Improved Reproductive Performance

Once the cow/ewe gives birth, all of the nutrients obtained from the feed are put into producing enough quality milk for the growing calf or lamb so if the mother is severely deprived of nutrients she may not be able to produce sufficient milk for her offspring. In response to this, the cow/ewe will begin to lose weight which in turn has a detrimental effect on healthy egg development, thus delaying the time between birth and re-conception.

Meat and Livestock Australia (2012) state that if a cow is in a body condition score (BCS) of 1-2 her ovaries may be dormant and as result will probably not cycle and conceive again while lactating during the following season. To produce a calf every year the cow must get pregnant again within 75 days of calving (2.5 months) and to ensure that she has the best chance for conception she must be in good condition (BCS of 3 or better) when she calves.

Research carried out by Fordyce 1994 showed that first calf heifers had a 15% increase in pregnancies even in good seasons. A similar response was found in mature cows that typically had low conception rates. The chance of the cow conceiving again in the following season is directly related to her body condition score at the end of the dry season (i.e. during calving and lactation). Cows with a body condition score of 3 have a 70% chance of becoming pregnant in the following season whereas a cow with a body condition score of 2 has only a 50% chance of pregnancy (MLA 2012).

Spike feeding ewes is commonly referred to as ?flushing?۝, which essentially means improving her body condition prior to breeding. As with cattle, it increases the ovulation rate and subsequent lambing rate. A ewe?۪s nutritional requirements increase substantially during late gestation, especially if the ewe is carrying multiple foetuses and this is because approximately 70% of foetal growth occurs during the last 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy. As flushing improves the ewe?۪s body condition it assures that she can produce adequate milk after lambing. This is especially important for ewes bearing twins or triplets as they have a much higher energy requirement; if the ewe does not have access to sufficient energy to support several lambs, either one or more of the lambs may die or the ewe may die. With this in mind, we understand that there are severe consequences of inadequate ewe nutrition prior to lambing including pregnancy disease, lighter lambs at birth, increased post-natal losses and lessening of mothering ability and milk production (Nutrient Requirements of Sheep 1985).

What are the benefits of improving nutrition before calving/lambing?

By spike feeding or flushing the aim is to provide a diet high in energy and protein to stimulate early recovery of healthy egg development before lactation commences. Our products specifically designed for spike feeding contain a high amount of energy to meet the higher requirements of pregnant ruminants which decreases the time taken to cycle again after giving birth. It is much easier to hold body condition and achieve higher conception rates rather than trying to put the condition back on after the calves/lambs have been weaned.

The benefits of spike feeding prior to calving/lambing include providing a diet high in nutrients for improving the cow/ewes condition, improved milk production for growing offspring, increased chance of healthy birth for both mother and baby and reduced time lapse between calving and joining. Overall, improved productivity!

How long to spike feed for?

Spike feeding or flushing should occur for at least 50 days and should commence about six weeks before the main calving/lambing season starts. For example, if the main calf and lamb drop occurs in November/December you should be looking at spike feeding for September and October.

How Top Country can improve your reproductive performance?

Top Country produces a range of products which combine high quality grains and slow breakdown protein meals to boost energy levels and improve rumen microbe efficiency of ruminants. Each of our products can be customised to suit the specific requirements of your livestock in the lead up to calving/lambing and joining. Please click on the links below to view our range of products and if you require advice on any of these products please don?۪t hesitate to contact any of our qualified Nutritionists today for a recommendation.


Top Production & Top Background

Top Bull


Top Background & Top Production (1% Urea)

Top Ewe Flush (Single Lamb) & Top Twin Lamb (these are specialised products, please call for more information on 07 4622 8330).

Author: Susie Doyle

Tags: Body Condition Score, calving pregnancy rates High conception rates cows Ewes

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