PASTURE growth following recent rains will not be able to meet the feed requirements of pregnant ewes.
Department of Agriculture veterinary officer Roy Butler said hand feeding for pregnant ewes should continue until new pastures have been established.
"Farmers hoping to do away with hand feeding need to keep in mind that despite the high quality of new growth, pasture densities will generally be low and plants will be small," he said.
"In addition, pregnant ewes will be using up a lot of energy looking for new growth."
Mr Butler said farmers should, at the very least, be providing supplementary grain.
"Where ewes are showing a preference for new pasture and are refusing supplementary feed, farmers could try a more palatable grain such as lupins, or could continue full hand feeding through the use of a feedlot or sacrifice area," he said.
"Full hand feeding has the added benefit of keeping sheep away from new pastures, and allowing mature plants to become established."
Once pastures have been established, supplementary feed will still be needed for ewes in their last few weeks of pregnancy or their first four-six weeks of lactation.
Mr Butler said the amount of grain required for late pregnant and lactating ewes would depend on the quantity and quality of available pasture, and the condition of the ewe.
"Without good quality feed, pregnancy toxaemia can develop, which has been common in autumn lambing ewes," he said.
"Insufficient feed can also lead to poor survival and growth rate of lambs."
As a guide, a ewe in the last 50 days of pregnancy, grazing dry feed, requires a daily supplement of about 300g of lupins, 390g of wheat or barely, or 450g of oats.
Mr Butler said these requirements would rise by about 25pc in early lactation.