Sugar beet will prove an excellent high energy feed option for sheep this year, with the British crop averaging around 18% sugar in Supaflow and Bag Supabeet.
Charlotte Ward, ruminant nutritionist at Trident Feeds, says the high sugar content will help maximise rumen fermentation efficiency and drive performance.
“There are year-round benefits of feeding sugar beet to ewes and lambs. Alongside a high energy content, typically 12.5 to 13 MJ ME/kg DM, it provides a key source of digestible fibre which is vital to enhance rumen efficiency and feed intakes.”
Charlotte says meeting nutritional requirements throughout the production year can be difficult on grass-based diets alone. “Supplementary feeding of sugar beet feed can provide the extra energy required, particularly building up reserves at tupping and lambing.
“While it’s important to manage overall ewe body condition to maintain productivity throughout the year, if ewes are in poor condition at tupping, there’ll be a decrease in ovulation rate. This will affect overall lambing percentage, a critical business parameter that has a major impact on profitability.
“Flushing ewes with a high energy supplementary feed such as sugar beet for three to six weeks prior to tupping, can help bring stock up to the right condition to maximise fertility,” says Charlotte.
The benefit of sugar beet feed can then continue throughout pregnancy and in the run-up to lambing.
“As the foetus grows, so does the ewe’s nutrient demands, and feeding an energy dense supplement is an excellent way to help meet these requirements and avoid the loss of body reserves.”
Post lambing, the ewe’s energy demands switch to producing high levels of quality milk. If these are not met, intakes and rumen function could be compromised, Charlotte explains.
“Digestible fibre is required to balance cereal-based diets to avoid rumen acidosis or to complement lush spring grass. The latter is typically low in structural fibre and high in soluble sugars so doesn’t provide the rumen microbes with enough structural carbohydrate to function effectively. Providing sugar beet feed can help prevent this.”
She adds feeding digestible fibre to lambs will also prove beneficial. “To enhance growth rates, lambs should be encouraged to eat dry feed as soon as possible to aid rumen development. Feeding a sugar beet-based creep feed has been shown to increase lamb growth rates, allowing them to be finished and sold up to two weeks earlier.
“Feeding sugar beet feed is cost-effective and will pay dividends at every stage of production,” concludes Charlotte.