Sheep management: Taking action quickly when it comes to thinner ewes

For March-lambing flocks, it is important farmers keep an eye on their ewes’ body condition over the coming weeks.

If it’s a case where there are a few thinner ewes, then they will require extra feeding. The last thing we want is ewes losing condition in the run-up to lambing, not only because of the problems that it can cause but at this stage, ewes that are in the latter stage of pregnancy, it is very difficult to put any sort of condition on them.

Ideally, we would like ewes lambing down with a body condition score of at least 3.0. Anything below this will lead to problems such as twin lamb disease, reduced milk production, less vigourous lambs, increased losses as well as a host of other problems.

Also Read: ‘Going in early with meal, if silage quality is poor, key to avoiding BCS loss’

So, it’s important to identify thinner ewes immediately and offer them extra meal. A simple way of doing this is by moving thinner twin-bearing ewes, for example, up to a similar feed level as the triplet-bearing ewes.

Good feeding management is critical and some tips include:

  • Ensure adequate concentrate feed space (600mm per large-framed ewe);
  • Keep a constant supply of forage available and remove refused/stale material regularly;
  • Clean out drinkers weekly to ensure fresh water is in constant supply;
  • Introduce concentrate supplementation in time and step up gradually;
  • Split concentrates into two feeds at least eight hours apart once feeding over 0.5kg/head/day;
  • Treat incidences of lameness promptly as lame ewes are less likely to compete for feed;
  • Keep an eye out for shy feeders and separate out to encourage them to eat meal.