NSA and Carrs Billington: Interpretation of Forage Analysis and Feed Labelling

This webinar was recorded as part of NSA's October 2020 Virtual Celebration of Sheep Farming. Paul Mardell and Dr Ruth Lawson from Carrs Billington join NSA's webinar series to share their knowledge of the role of homegrown forage as well as feed.

Paul Mardell and Dr Ruth Lawson from Carrs Billington proved to be a fantastic double act, with Mr Mardell leading on the importance of forage in ewe nutrition and Dr Lawson following up on the ingredients in bought-in feed. Mr Mardell said winter forage was often overlooked, with only 50% of sheep farmers across the UK sending silage or hay for analysis. He urged producers to focus on forage quality and then getting it analysed, adding that analysis was not expensive and was sometimes even offered as a free service by local companies and reps. The better the silage, he said, the better the quantity and quality of ewe intake, reducing the cost of bought-in feeds. To illustrate this point, he said a 9.3ME silage would result in a shortfall in pregnant ewe nutrition of 7.49MJ, needing to be made up for with a 17.68p/day cost in compound feed. In comparison, a 11.3ME silage would have a shortfall of only 1.85MJ and a 4.5p/day feed cost.

Moving onto what that compound feed might include, Dr Lawson said to focus on good quality raw ingredients. The order of ingredients on the label indicated the quantity within the mix, meaning ingredients at the very bottom of the list might be in too small a quantity to actually be of benefit to the ewe. Dr Lawson also recommended looking at the source of vitamin E (avoiding ‘vitamin E equivalents’ if possible) and also considering the dangers of providing too much selenium and iodine if ewes had also been bolused and/or had access to licks or buckets. She supported the use of additional products, but explained their suitability (or not) depending on individual systems and so seeking bespoke advice was best. Her final words of advice were to make a decision and stick to it, as ‘chopping and changing’ in the lead up to lambing would do more harm than good.

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