Are your ewes ready for the upcoming breeding season?

With the breeding season only around the corner, it’s a critical time for farmers to analyse their ewes’ condition. Ewes should be examined 10 weeks pre-breeding, and any ewe not up to the task should be culled.

At this stage of the year, ewes are either on after-grass or on a restricted-feeding regime to get them ready for the breeding season.

Similar to the ram, ewes should have had their annual ‘NCT’ carried out. Listed below are four key areas which should be considered when choosing ewes to keep for the breeding season.

These include:

  • Body condition;
  • Teeth;
  • Feet;
  • Udder.

Body condition

Ideally, ewes should be ‘fit not fat’ and they should be in a body condition score (BCS) of 3 at mating. Once you have identified any thin ewes, you will then be able to provide them with priority treatment to ensure that they hit this target come mating.

At this time of the year, many farmers will be flushing their ewes. In most cases, farmers will restrict ewe feed intake for a few weeks, followed by an increase in their plane of nutrition.

Flushing is carried out to increase the plane of nutrition to ensure weight gain and correct BCS pre-breeding. 

Ewes this time of the year will be shorn, and this should make it easier for farmers to BCS their animals.

Teeth

Coming into the breeding season, you don’t want ewes with under or over-shot teeth. Ewes are suspect to uneven molars; this can be identified if a ewe has a lump at the back of her jaw.

At four years-of-age, a ewe will have a full set of teeth. One of the main reasons farmers cull stock after this time is due to sheep losing their teeth.

Ewes that are missing teeth are going to find it more difficult to graze grass; hence, a reduction in condition will be experienced. This will affect the ewe’s ability to cycle and become pregnant.

Feet

It is critical that ewes are not lame. Lameness can result in: reduced weight gain; extra feed costs; extra labour costs; reduced milk yield; and pregnancy toxemia.

Diseases such as footrot and scald can be common in ewes. An injection is needed to cure footrot and a footbath will help with any scald problems.

80% of foot problems are caused by footrot and scald.

All ewes should be foot bathed at this stage. Any ewes that are not responding to treatment – or are still lame – should be culled.

Udder

It’s vital that records are kept on a year-to-year basis on the performance of ewes. This can be a great indicator of what ewes should be culled from the flock.

Any ewes that have a history of mastitis, blind teats and lesions on teats should be analysed carefully before making a decision on her breeding capabilities.

Ewes that have prolapsed before are more than likely going to do so again, so the best solution is to cull straight away.

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