27 September 1996

Lots of rest is key to success

EARLY weaning and ensuring ewes have a long break to recover between weaning and tupping is the key to success at Oxford Uni-versitys farm near Wytham, Oxon.

Farm manager David Sharpe says the long break ensures ewes lose less condition, and are likely to score 3.5 even when there has been severe drought. Pre-tupping foot trimming and worming are also important, though he chooses not to crutch his 640 North Country mules, which lamb in late March.

"The ewes go out in lots of 150-200, which makes feed management easier. We use feed blocks, but as a gauge of whether grass is becoming short rather than as a supplementary feed."

When ewes go into the field, teasers are introduced, with the aim of a tight lambing period to cut shepherding and feeding costs. Mr Sharpe uses 40 ewes to a tup, but always has reserves in case of illness.

Crayons are changed half-way through the first cycle, and a third colour is used for the whole of the second 17-day cycle. At the end of the second cycle, teasers with a different crayon colour are put in to pick up barren ewes. &#42

A long break between weaning and tupping encourages good conception, rates, says manager David Sharpe.