Drought conditions of the past two years impacted both the quality and quantity of forage. The quality of the forage does not improve when it is baled as hay and then stored until the time of use. Vitamins and minerals in stored forage decrease the longer the forage is stored, and with reduced quality and quantity of forage in general due to drought, the decrease in available nutrition for the animal is something to be cognizant of. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that ewes and does may have experienced weight loss while grazing over the summer and may have been thin going into breeding season. While these drought-stressed forages are being fed, animals may continue to face nutritional deficiencies.
Proper supplementation during gestation and lactation is exceptionally important this year, especially to under-conditioned ewes and does. Not providing proper nutrition during this time could have detrimental effects on the health of both dam and offspring. Nutrition during gestation plays a vital role in the development of the baby and sets the best foundation for the health of the animal throughout its life. At the same time, it helps ensure the mother will be in proper condition to adequately feed her growing offspring post-natal, as well as ensure the production of quality colostrum that is essential to the newborn kid or lamb. As many may already have lambs and kids on the ground, the question remains how can you help them reach their growth potential with the options at hand? Especially if we end up facing drought conditions again this summer.
When we consider the diminished quality of drought-impacted forage, as well as the increased cost of higher quality hay which is another result of record drought, supplementing lower quality hay with a creep feeding option could be the best financial decision. Additionally, creep feeding can help lambs and kids receive the added nutrition necessary to ensure proper growth while on lower quality forage. It will also serve to help reduce some of the burden on the dams and help them retain better condition during the lactation period. Creep feeding can be an easy but effective way to combat the effect of drought, and position your herd for success in future breeding seasons.