Participants in the new National Sheep Welfare Scheme (NSWS) have just a few days left to complete a measure on their breeding ewes that is required for a payment in the scheme.

Those who selected the action of body condition scoring ewes (BCS) and appropriate follow-on management must complete this action twice this year.

The first BCS of ewes must be carried out by Monday, July 15 and be recorded in the scheme action record sheet.

The second BCS assessment must be carried out between August 1 to October 15, 2024, and the assessment dates must take place eight weeks apart.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM),the BCS of breeding ewes has been shown to have a significant effect on ewe productivity and the subsequent performance of her lambs.

BCS is a simple manual check to assess the amount of fat cover and muscle mass which can be scored between 1 (thin) and 5 (fat).

Source: DAFM

Measuring BCS can be carried out by hand does not require any equipment.

Having the flock at the correct BCS pre-mating of 3.5 to 4.0 will increase the number of lambs reared per ewe along with increased prolificacy and reduced barren rates.

The breeding ewes in the flock with a body condition score of 1 or 2 should be separated and given access to preferential feeding such as high-quality grass / forage.

bcs of ewes
An example of a completed BCS assessment in the scheme Source: DAFM

Breeding ewes with a low BCS may need to be housed.

The number of breeding ewes that were identified as thin (1 and 2) should be clearly recorded in the scheme action record sheets along with the dates of the assessments for all breeding ewes.

The action must be carried out on the number of breeding ewes selected by the farmer as their payable number at application stage.

BCS is a category A action in the scheme, with the other category A action being shearing.

Just one of these actions must be completed to be eligible for the €4/ewe payment.

One of the category B actions, which are vaccination of ewes against clostridial diseases +/ pasteurella and plunge dipping to control external parasites, must be selected to be eligible for a €4/ewe payment.

The completion of a category A and a category B action will bring the total payment in the scheme to €8/ewe.