What weight should my ewe lambs be at breeding?

The start of August marked the beginning of the breeding sale season and, since then, marts up and down the country have been very busy.

It has been a strong August in terms of the trade for breeding sheep, with both hoggets and ewe lambs in high demand.

Mart managers have noted that farmers have been particularly interested in sourcing ewe lambs they feel are fit for breeding this year.

Also Read: Breeding sales: Strong demand for hoggets

Many farmers often decide against lambing down ewe lambs; however, this year there seems to a change in tune among some farmers.

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.

Farmers that plan to breed off ewe lambs should make sure that they are heavy enough, otherwise this could and, in most cases, will lead to problems.

Work carried out by Teagasc has indicated that ewe lambs should be 60% of their mature body weight at joining with the ram.

So, for example, if the plan is to breed off ewe lambs, larger lowland breeds with a mature liveweight of 75kg to 80kg should be in around 45kg to 48kg at mating.

This is critical as ewe lamb weight at joining influences date of puberty, fertility and pregnancy rate. From this work, Teagasc found that increasing the liveweight at joining increases the probability of rearing a live lamb, but the appropriate liveweight is influenced by ewe genotype.

Therefore, if you are on the lookout for ewe lambs for the upcoming breeding season, it is important to keep in mind the weight of the lambs that you are buying and what weight they need to be when breeding starts.