Maintaining ewe BCS in early lactation is critical

The recent dry weather has enabled farmers to get their ewes and lambs out to pasture, as well as getting fertiliser out on grazing and silage ground.

However, growth rates are still not where they should be, especially in the west of the country, where the cold weather, over the last week or so, has put further pressure on farms that have low grass covers.

The good news is that lambing sheds aren’t as cramped as they would have been a week or two ago, which should have taken pressure off farmers.

However, the management of ewes and their lambs that are out on grass is important to get right. It is vital that ewes maintain their body condition post-lambing, because, if they don’t, it could lead to problems for both the ewe and her lambs.

It is inevitable that a ewe will lose condition after lambing, especially if she is carrying multiple lambs; however, it’s vital that farmers minimise the amount of condition they lose.

Ideally, you want to have ewes to have a body condition score (BCS) of between 2.75 and 3.0 post-lambing, if possible.

In order for ewes to thrive and continue to produce milk for their lambs, they need access to good-quality grass, and, if grass-supplies are tight, then they should be supplemented with concentrates.

For farmers that have a number of ewes that are rearing three lambs, then they should consider running them as a separate flock, as they will have a higher demand compared to ewes rearing one or two lambs.

It is important that farmers keep a close eye on their triplet ewes in the first few weeks of lactation, as some ewes may not be able to sustain rearing three lambs.

Speaking to farmers over the last week or so, due to poor grass growth rates, many of them are supplementing their single and twin ewes – that are out on grass – with up to 0.5kg of concentrates, whereas, the triplet ewes are getting up to as much as 1kg, in some cases.

However, the hope is that grass growth rates will improve in the next week or so, which should see these levels of concentrates being fed, reduced.

Moreover, access to clean water is vital, especially if ewes are being fed dry feed, such as concentrates. Ewes in early lactation will drink up to 10L/day.