Appropriate ewe management post-weaning is critical to ensure a successful drying off and ensuring that the ewes will be back in optimum body condition before the next mating season.
Teagasc advises farmers to dry the ewes off by restricting intake for a week to 10 days. It says a bare field is ideal for this job. If the ewes are being housed, then pay particular attention to bedding/hygiene to avoid mastitis. Once the drying off procedure has been carried out, the ewes should be condition scored and divided into groups based on their condition scores. Every farm should have a minimum of two groups of dry ewes.
The first group, which will be the ewes that are in a body condition score of less than 3.5, should receive preferential treatment so that they put on weight.
The second group will be the fatter ewes that are in body condition score of 3.5 and over and these should be managed to maintain or even lose a small bit of weight until the flushing period in the last two to three weeks prior to mating.
Teagasc advise that ewes that do not respond to additional feed in terms of putting on additional liveweight should be culled.
June and July are the most challenging months in terms of keeping grass leafy and highly digestible, according to Teagasc.
It says lamb performance will be maximised where lambs are allowed to preferentially graze paddocks with a grass height of between 6cm and 8cm. Once lambs are moved out of swards, it is essential that they are grazed out fully to maintain grass quality into August/September.
Because the lambs will be moved out at around 6cm, Teagasc advise that it is necessary to get other stock to graze out the sward fully (down to 4cm). Weaned ewes are ideal to clean out these swards. If there is no stock on the farm that can do this job, then the sward will need to be mowed/ topped down to 4-5cm.