Managing the nutritional status of the late pregnant doe or ewe is critical for kid or lamb survival

Proper nutritional management during late pregnancy of the doe or ewe is critical for kid or lamb survival and for milk production.

Goats and sheep carrying multiple fetuses have a very high energy demand in late pregnancy and require adequate energy in their diet to ensure that the requirements of pregnancy are met. This can be a challenge in females carrying two or more fetuses as feed intake can become limiting due to metabolic and physical constraints. The metabolic needs of a large litter are difficult to meet which is further complicated by the reduced size of the rumen due to the increased space occupied by multiple fetuses.

During late pregnancy it is important to feed diets that are high in digestibility and nutrient density because of the limits on feed intake. Animals should be fed a high quality hay and an energy dense supplement such as corn. The energy in the diet during late pregnancy should be as high as during lactation, even though the actual requirements are a bit lower. If energy needs are not met, there is a good chance that ketosis or pregnancy toxemia will develop. Ketosis occurs when the glucose requirement of the pregnancy are not met. Glucose is the principle form of energy used by the pregnancy and its demand increase proportionally with increasing fetal and placental mass. This high demand and the inability to increase feed intake to meet energy demands cause glucose levels to drop which causes the mobilization of fat. This fat gets into the liver and affects the capacity to produce glucose.

Ketosis, when diagnosed early, can be treated with propylene glycol which is converted to glucose in the gastrointestinal tract. If ketosis is not detected early and treated, it is often fatal. If the doe or ewe is just a few days from being due, she often will make it to labor with the help of propylene glycol. Once the pregnancy has ended, animals with late onset ketosis often make a quick and complete recovery as feed intake and glucose production return to normal. Michigan State University Extension recommends maintaining pregnant does and ewes at a body condition score in the 2.5 to 3.5 range throughout pregnancy to help to avoid problems from ketosis.

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