26 June 1998

Pick the right ewes to retain

LOW cull ewe prices mean producers may be tempted to retain ewes which would otherwise be culled, increasing the risk of concerns before lambing.

So warns Staffs-based Signet consultant Maurice Jones. "I cannot see cull ewe prices rising to any great degree. There is a lot of lamb to come on to the market over the next two to three months."

Given current financial difficulties, Mr Jones says it is inevitable that producers will attempt to retain ewes for longer, reducing replacement costs. "But it is important to balance reducing costs with trying to take ewes on another season; there is no point in keeping ewes which are not going to produce lambs."

He suggests selecting ewes after weaning and a period of concentrate feeding to help boost condition. "Broken mouthed ewes which are thin after weaning may well gain condition with additional feeding, and could be kept for a further season.

"Where ewes are fed and fail to gain condition they should be sold as culls – it probably means their liver or kidneys are packing up. They will consequently live until early spring when they come under greater pressure and then die. These ewes should certainly be sold," says Mr Jones. &#42