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Feeding Does and Ewes During Late Gestation

Proper feeding of pregnant does and ewes is critical to good fetal development.

Feeding the doe and ewe the last 6 weeks before kidding and lambing are critical due to approximately 70 - 80% growth by the fetus.  The ewe should gain 10 - 30 lbs. by the time she lambs.  Ewes or does in late pregnancy require 50% more feed if bearing a single and another 5 to 10% more for a twin. Overall, that's 75% more than required during early gestation. During the month prior to kidding and the following 3 months (assuming a weaning at 12 weeks of age), the doe or ewe will eat nearly as much as in the remaining 8 months of the year. 

When feeding a high roughage ration it is advisable to supplement with 1 pound of grain during the last 3-4 weeks of pregnancy.  If they are expecting a large number of twins and triplets, it is often desirable to begin graining ewes and does as early as 6 weeks prior to lambing.

Balancing Rations

When balancing rations for sheep and goats, rations should be balanced for protein, energy, minerals and vitamins. Calcium and phosphorus amounts and ratios (2 Calcium to 1 Phosphorus) should be calculated and supplemented.  Moreover, a trace mineralized salt should also be provided (micro minerals).  A commercial mineral will provide both of these.  Be careful with sheep who are copper sensitive.  They should only be fed a sheep mineral.  There are several good feed balancing programs for sheep and goats on the web; below I have one listed for each species.

Water Is Important, Too

Total water intake of ewes or does carrying twins is about 20% greater in third month of pregnancy, 25% greater in the fourth month of pregnancy and 75% greater in the fifth month than for ewes or does carrying a single. 

Feeding of Young Kids and Lambs

Milk production of the doe and ewe begins to decrease after the 6th week of lactation and is quite low by the 12th week. Because of this kids and lambs may be creep fed (fed grain separately using a creep feeder) while nursing to increase growth rate of kids and lambs and reduce demand on the doe or ewe for milk production.  A creep feed should be at least 16% crude protein and may contain a coccidiostat to control coccidiosis.

A goat feeding on grass.

Randy Saner

Nebraska Extension Educator - Livestock