As ground conditions continue to deteriorate, many sheep farmers will be looking to house their ewes in the coming weeks.
At this stage of the year (late-November) farmers should have 60% of their grazing ground closed off. Furthermore, come mid-December, 80% of the grazing ground should be closed off.
According to Teagasc, shearing ewes – that will lamb in March – at housing has many advantages.
Research carried out by Teagasc has shown that lambs born from ewes that had been shorn at housing were 0.6kg heavier at birth and 1.9kg heavier at weaning.
Moreover, shearing ewes at housing increased lamb birth weight. However, it did not affect the incidence of lambing difficulty or mortality.
Shearing ewes at housing has the potential to:
- Increase lamb birth weight by 0.6kg;
- Increase lamb weaning weight by 1.9kg;
- Reduce lamb age at slaughter by approximately two weeks;
- Increase fleece weight by 0.3kg;
- Enable more ewes to be housed in a pen.
An added benefit of shearing you ewes during the housing period is the extra space that it provides compared to unshorn ewes.
The recommended space allowance for ewes housed on slats or straw bedding is 1.2m² for ewes weighing 70kg and 1.4m² for ewes weighing 90kg.
This, in turn, means the floor area required by shorn ewes is up to 20% less. Therefore, this allows farmers to house up to 15% more ewes in a pen.
If farmers plan to shear their ewes for the winter period, it is best practice to shear them as soon as they are housed.
Generally, ewes need to be housed for at least 10 weeks to allow for optimal wool regrowth.
If ewes have insufficient wool regrowth at turnout, this could lead to animal health problems, especially if they are exposed to bad weather conditions.