Even though breeding is a few months away yet, September is a good month to prepare and assess your flock of ewes. Sheep specialists at The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority advise that evaluating your flock is imperative and will save time in the long run.
First thing is first, identify the ewes that may be problematic. Some ewes can be a more challenging to manage than others, so records are essential if a successful breeding season is to be had.
Ideally you should know which ewes:
Were bad mothers
Had big teats that lambs could not suckle
Had milk fever/delayed lambing
Had difficult lambing
Had little or no milk
Were persistently lame
Failing to identify the ewes with these problems now means that in all likelihood you will come up against these issues again next year in the lambing shed. If you work alongside conditioning scoring, then it is a good idea to divide your flock into ewes that are of good condition and those in bad condition. Thin ewes will need more than two or three weeks for flushing. An ewe that is in body condition score of 2.5 today, will need 10 weeks of good grass to get her to a body condition score of 3.5.
Breeding young ewes
Some sheep specialists believe with good management and nutrition, ewe lambs can produce offspring at 12 months old with the following considerations:
Ewe lambs need to be well grown to achieve puberty. They must reach 60-70% of their mature bodyweight prior to tupping and must grow by 200-250g a day until six weeks post-tupping.
Breed ewe lambs away from the main flock because they are less competitive for the ram’s attention. Plus it is best to use experienced rams rather than ram lambs.
One mature ram would manage 50 ewe lambs, but a greater ratio may be needed as ewe lambs are not as obliging as mature ewes.
It is best to avoid multiple births so try to avoid overfeeding ewe lambs in the run up to, and during, mating.
Pregnant ewe lambs are still growing and therefore have higher nutritional requirements than ewes; during early and mid-pregnancy, ewe lambs need around 20% more feed than mature ewes to sustain their growth.
It is vital to scan at 8 weeks post-tupping to identify animals carrying more than one lamb.
By identifying non-pregnant animals at scanning, a decision can be made on whether to sell for slaughter or to keep for breeding in the following season.
Ensure lambs are at optimum body condition score, six weeks before lambing starts.
Do not overfeed in the last few weeks before lambing otherwise you will create large single lambs and lambing difficulties. Do keep in mind however that ewe lambs are also less aggressive at the feed trough and should be fed and managed separately from mature females.
Any ewe lambs carrying twins should be managed separately in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. If twins are on board, the ewe lamb should rear only one otherwise it will put too much pressure on them – affecting body condition, future performance and lamb growth rates. It will also make her more prone to mastitis and udder damage as milk production is lower in ewe lambs.
Wean lambs earlier at 10-12 weeks to prevent body condition falling. Ewe lambs have a high nutrient demand for growth – 6-7 MJ for a daily gain of 200g in lactating ewe lambs.
As you juggle sheep breeding, as well as everything that else that happens on the farm at this time of year remember AbbeyAutoline’s dedicated farm team are here to make sure that insurance is one less thing to worry about.
For more info check out our farm section on our website or give the agricultural team a call on 08000 665544.