With the sheep clipped and weaning imminent, now’s the perfect time of year to have a good sort through the ewes and decide who’s staying and give these some TLC pre-tupping. We asked Becca Dodd to explain the importance of this!
With the wool off it’s much easier to assess the condition of the ewes. Body condition scoring (BCS) is a great way to assess this; get a hand on their backs, just behind the ribs and feel how well covered they are.
10-12 weeks pre-tupping is a great time to do this as it can take this long for ewes to gain 0.5 BCS. Separating different BCS ensures the planer ewes can gain condition pre- tupping, while the larger ladies have time to slim down to their optimal physique. The aim is 90% at ideal condition by the time the rams go in.
Don’t forget the ewe lambs and shearlings. The same principles applies to these, ewe lambs should be at 60% mature ewe weight and shearlings 80% mature weight, but not over or under conditioned. It’s worth weighing a few adult sheep to get an idea of what the mature weight is rather than estimating. Weigh scales are a valuable tool on any sheep farm and should be used for much more than checking lambs are market weight ready….but that’s a story for another time.
Pasture quality at this time of year is a balancing act, ensuring there’s enough good quality pasture to finish lambs, while having fields available to get condition back on ewes. And then using higher quality pasture for flushing. This is common practice to increase follicle quality and number, but should be used with care in some breeds like Llyns and Aberdales, and older ewes, as this can result in a lot of triplets and quads.
As with tups, it’s important to ensure there’s no reason why the ewes aren’t performing to their best – have they got a full set of teeth? Are they lame? Are there any lumps in their udder? Worms? Most ewes will not need worming as they should have some degree of immunity to gut worms, meaning a worm burden is unlikely to be a cause of condition loss. However, with the reduced use of wormers in adult sheep lungworm is on the rise. Signs in sheep are similar to cows but often less severe with a soft cough and abattoir feedback the only indication there’s an issue. This should be discussed in your flock health plan if you are concerned. Individual farms should know if there’s a fluke or haemonchus issue on their farm and should have plans in place for managing these.
Replacements should be on farm at least 1 month before they are intended to be tupped. This gives plenty of time to quarantine them, address any problems and get them vaccinated to the same level as the rest of the flock. Abortion vaccines should be given to stock within plenty of time of tupping.
Take a trip down memory lane
Think back to lambing time, were there any massive problems? Did lambing spread out longer than you’d like? Did you lose more lambs than normal? How can they be avoided? If you answered yes to any of these, or it’s got you thinking of any more let us know and we’re here to help find the problem and a solution.
Don’t forget the boys, ensure the tups are fully functioning too. Tup testing is a good way of ensuring the tups are working pre-turn out with the ewes. Scanning and definitely lambing time is a long time to wait and see if there’s been an issue. Potential production loses will be far greater than the cost of a tup test or two.