Improving your Dohne herd’s fertility: The role of lupins
DOHNE-MERINO, FARMING, PLANTING | APRIL 16, 2021
If you want your Dohne merino to enjoy maximum reproductive efficiency, then be sure to take a closer look at their nutrition.
Poor nutrition will not only affect the Dohne’s fertility, but also the lamb’s potential survival.
As a possible ‘quick-fix’ solution, Dohne farmers could take a closer look at lupins.
A 2010 study (Jolly & Cottle 2010) found that lupins help to increase sperm production, as they increase testes weight and increase the volume of seminiferous tubules (which contain the sperms). In the study, the authors recommend feeding lupins to rams before the onset of the mating season.
Lupins are known to be a good source of protein, providing a high level of fibre and little starch. They also add essential nutrients to the microbes in the sheep’s rumen.
At Suidplaas, we sow lupins as a source of nutrients for our Dohnes during planting season. We also provide lupin feed to our Dohne rams around 50 days prior to mating, to maximise sperm output. And we feed our ewes with 500 grams of lupins a day, 30 days prior to mating for at least two and a half months.
This strategy has helped us maintain an average lambing percentage of 149% over the past 10 years. In fact, in February and March 2021, after 1520 ewes were mated, 2310 lambs were born – giving Suidplaas a lambing percentage of 152%.
Lupinosis is another concern for farmers in South Africa. This is caused when a fungus grows on lupin stubble. Sheep can die within only a few days, or even over a period of a few weeks after consuming the stubble. As there’s no treatment, you’re advised to check your herd daily if they’re grazing on lupin stubble. Take them off the lupin if there’s rain or heavy dew. It’s ideal to let sheep graze the lupin stubble immediately after harvest – and be sure to remove them once the stubble is finished.
Lupin is considered to be a more expensive option for farmers, and as a result, many farmers (especially in the Overberg) opt for maize instead. While this option may save money in the short term, it could prove more costly in the long term.
And even if the costs are higher, be sure to only feed high-quality lupins to your herd.
Here’s a warning, though:
It’s suggested that you gradually introduce lupins to your Dohne’s diet. By introducing lupins too quickly in high amounts to hungry stock, you could bring on ammonia toxicity in your Dohne herd.
Another suggestion is to consider adding a sulphur supplement when feeding lupins to your sheep. Lupins are low in sulphur, and sulphur is an essential element in a sheep’s diet, preventing illnesses such as enterotoxaemia (pulpy kidney disease, known as ‘rooiderm’ in Afrikaans). A sulphur and salt mixture works well to address this threat.
– Sheep Diseases: The Farmer’s Guide, July 2015 (produced by the Government of South Australia)
– Supplementary feeding and feed budgeting for sheep, 27 January 2021 (produced by the Government of Western Australia)
– Merino Management, by Dr Jasper Coetzee, 2013