Farmers should be targeting a ewe body condition score (BCS) of between 3.2 and 3.5 at lambing time, according to John Cannon.

John, who is a Teagasc advisor, was speaking at a seminar during the week, on the nutrition and management of the pregnant ewe.

Speaking on BCS, John said: “The key to managing any sheep flock is managing body condition. It doesn’t know what time of the year it is, but special consideration should be given to it coming up to lambing.

“The advice is to keep the ewes within a BCS range of 3.0 and 3.5. Ideally though, at lambing time you would like to be lambing down ewes with a BCS of 3.5, but you could afford a slight loss down to 3.25.

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“If you want to allow the flock to lose a little bit of condition, really the goal should be to allow them to lamb down with a BCS of 3.5 and then allow them to ‘milk off their back’ until they reach peak lactation a few weeks post-lambing.

“If ewes are thin at scanning time or at housing, then extra feed needs to be given to get these ewes up to the required BCS at lambing time.”

The issues accruing from poor body condition include: 

  • Energy directed to body reserves instead of the growing foetus;
  • Reduced milk production;
  • Increased losses;
  • Less vigorous lambs;
  • Lower lamb growth-rates;
  • Twin lamb disease.