Most of you will be very well seasoned when it comes to tupping. But there is never any harm in just having a recap on the importance body condition scoring for tupping. Pete gives us some ‘tup’tastic tips (sorry):
Get your hand on your ewes pre-tupping, know where you sheep are! If they are thin they may require additional supplementation to prevent further loss over the period; but remember that the rumen takes a couple of weeks to get used to any new feeds and hence changes should be done at least a fortnight before introduction of the tups. Splitting ewes into groups by body condition score is worthwhile if you are able to manage their body condition effectively over the weeks to come. Any ewes who are very over conditioned or very thin; should be considered for culling as they may be problem ewes going forward.
Flushing is feeding ewes on a higher plane of nutrition prior to tupping to improve the number of lambs conceived. Gaining an average of 0.5 Body condition score points across the group, in the 3 weeks before tupping starts. This has been shown to improve lambing percentage.
It should be noted that any ewes starting flushing over BCS 4.0 or below BCS 2.0 will have no benefit from flushing.
By the time the tups are introduced a target Body Condition Score of 2-2.5 for hill ewes, 2.5-3.0 for highland ewes; 3.0-3.5 for lowland ewes and 3.5 for tups is generally advised for best results.
The first six to eight weeks of pregnancy is as it is the time of fertilisation of the eggs and implantation of foetuses. Hence they are at their most vulnerable.
It is important to keep the quality of grass and feed available to ewes and tups good and at a constant level over this period. Any cause of stress such as a change in diet or unnecessary handling can cause embryo resorptions and hence smaller lamb numbers and more barren ewes come springtime. Whilst the nutritional demand of the lambs is low at this time of year consistency to the diet over this period is crucial.
Once the tups have been out a month, no major changes to diet are required unless we have a particularly bad period of weather in which case supplementary feeding may be required. Over conditioned or good condition ewes should be maintained in their current body condition score losing no more than 0.5 of a body condition score point. Ewes that are under conditioned can slowly put on 0.5 a BCS point with no negative impacts, however, caution should be given as too much feed may lead to excessively big lambs.
The last 6 weeks before lambing requires its own article in the spring, look out for that!