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3 tips on feeding your sheep mineral for breeding success

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Look for a sheep mineral formulated for optimal intake and high calcium levels.

Giving your ewes the right amount of mineral for the right amount of time might make your lamb breeding more successful.

Purina Animal Nutrition's Clay Elliott, a ruminant nutritionist, and Maggie Amburgey, a ruminant technical specialist, say the following are three tips to maximize your flock's potential.

Feed mineral longer

Elliott said giving your flock more time to absorb mineral will help them meet their optimal mineral levels as well as correct any mineral deficiencies. He said this will overall improve breeding success, especially if mineral feeding begins 60 days before breeding and continues through gestation. Even better if it's fed year-round, he said.

"When you factor in the cost of potential lost pregnancies, poor conception rates, substandard performance and death loss, you realize how much a good mineral program can make a difference," Amburgey said.

Optimize mineral intake

Elliott said hitting the right balance of mineral intake is important because low intake can mean low nutrition, while a high intake can mean you're spending too much money. While sheep often eat too much mineral at first, these high intake levels usually drop off after a few days once deficiencies start to get corrected. 

Farmers should also be aware of where they're putting mineral, Elliott said. You should keep mineral feeders in high-traffic areas at first, and then slowly transition to putting it in low-traffic pasture areas. Elliott added that mineral feeders should also be protected from outside elements, like rain and wind, and should be regularly cleaned.

Don't forget the calcium

Pay attention to what's in the mineral you're buying – ensure it has a high calcium content by looking for bioavailability, or the ability to absorb calcium instead of pass right through. Ninety percent bioavailability is ideal for maximum potential. While a mineral block requires less labor, it also usually has trace minerals in it, Elliott said.

"Feeding a complete, bioavailable mineral ensures sheep get all the nutrients they need," Amburgey said. "The mineral form can play a role, but the key things to evaluate is the calcium to phosphorus levels, mineral bioavailability and salt level."