26 April 1996

Stressed hill ewe needs a lot more care

HILL ewes weighing 50kg, carrying 7kg of twins, have 14% of their body weight as foetal weight. But an 80kg lowland ewe carries 9kg of lambs but only 11% of her body weight as foetal weight.

The hill ewe is therefore under more stress, has less body reserves and must be fed as her lowland counterpart, says Mike Wigmore, Signet consultant in northern England.

This will prevent twin-lamb disease and help guarantee healthy lambs and sufficient milk supplies. These ewes should be bought in-bye and fed concentrate or high energy blocks until enough grass is available. Shelter, in the form of lambing pens, lets lambs become well established before turnout.

Ewe condition suffers later in the year if too many twins are born into a hill flock. This could affect a ewes ability to conceive or to produce healthy lambs the next season.

To prevent this scenario, ewes should be condition score 3 at tupping. This can be achieved by:

&#8226 Providing enough grazing post-weaning in late August/early September. If unavailable, offer feed blocks or 0.2kg of concentrate.

&#8226 Wean lambs early and sell on to the light export market at 8kg to 12kg dw, or 20kg to 25kg lw with a fat cover of 2L to 3L.

Ram lambs left entire will have increased growth rates and leave no taint in the meat when sold at this early age. "But the main criteria for selling early light lambs is price," says Mr Wigmore. "If prices are around 230p/kg for a 10kg carcass in July or August, then £23 for a hill twin lamb at that time of year may seem fairly attractive. And where feed supplies are low, selling light lambs early gives ewes longer to recover." &#42