In its latest sheep management notes in advance the breeding season on sheep farms the staff from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Northern Ireland outline key advice to sheep farmers at this vital time.

Ewe management pre-tupping

The target body score at the point of tupping for lowland ewes is 3.0-3.5 and 2.5-3.0 for hill ewes. Assess body scores every three weeks. It takes three to five weeks on good grass (2300 kg dry matter per hectare or 7 cm high) to put on 0.5 body score. Carry out all ewe preparations for tupping, including veterinary treatments at least three weeks before mating.

Ewe lambs should be at least 75 per cent of mature body weight at mating. This means that, for a lowland crossbred flock with an average mature weight of 60-70 kg, ewe lambs need to be more than 45 kg at mating.

Managing rams before mating

It takes about seven weeks to prepare rams for tupping, therefore:

  • Get your Vet to carry out a fertility check now.
  • Feed rams a high energy, 16-18 per cent protein ration at 0.75 kg per head per day and graze on good swards. Aim for body score 4 pre-tupping.
  • Do not feed a ewe ration to rams as high levels can cause urinary calculi.
  • Vaccinate against Clostridial diseases and fluke drench at least three weeks before tupping.

Sheep management

Purchased sheep can often carry new and unwanted disease onto the farm. Find out as much as possible about the history of veterinary treatments for purchased stock. It is important to quarantine purchased stock for three to four weeks. It is also recommended that replacement sheep, including rams, are treated for worms/fluke on arrival. Graze on areas where fluke is unlikely to be a problem – drier snail free areas.

Store lambs

Store lambs on good grass should still be gaining at least 1.0 kg liveweight per week. If liveweight gain is less than this introduce meal feeding at 0.1-0.25 kg per head per day. Treat lambs for worms and fluke and  medium to long keep lambs will also need clostridial/pneumonia vaccination.