Keep a close eye on under-conditioned ewes as the breeding season edges closer

The month of September can be a make or break month for some under-conditioned breeding ewes on farms.

Realistically, farmers should be giving themselves 10 weeks to build up the condition of their flock of ewes.

As we approach the midway point of September, farmers should be keeping a close eye on ewes they identified as being under-conditioned and needed that bit of extra help to get them to where they needed to to be for the breeding period.

Breeding kicks off on many farms during the month of October, so it’s important – over the next few weeks – to keep a close eye on thinner ewes and see how they are progressing.

Also Read: Sheep management: Time to check if your ram is fit for purpose

Ideally, farmers should be looking for their ewes to have a body condition score (BCS) of 3.5 for lowland-type ewes and a BCS of 3.0 for hill-type ewes at joining.

At this stage, thinner ewes should be on the best-quality grass that is available on the farm and, if needs be, should be supplemented with concentrates.

It may be a case where some ewes, that don’t put on adequate condition before the breeding period, that they may need to be culled. Carrying on ‘problem ewes’ only creates more work – especially at lambing time.

If not done already, a final health check should be carried out on the flock prior to joining. Farmers should re-check udders and mouths, as well as culling lame ewes that have not responded to treatment.

Ewe lambs

For those that plan to breed off ewe lambs this coming season, it is important to monitor their progress over the coming weeks as well.

Breeding ewe lambs, provided that they are managed to meet their nutritional requirements, can reduce the cost of rearing replacements and they can increase flock output and profitability.

However, work carried out by Teagasc has indicated that ewe lambs should be 60% of their mature body weight at joining with the ram – so farmers should keep this in mind before introducing a ram.

To give a better idea of what weight your ewe lambs should be at joining, realistically, you would want them to be – if you’re talking about lowland breeds that have a mature weight of between 75kg and 80kg – weighing 45-48kg; however, many farmers target their ewe lambs to be weighing 50kg or more at joining.