18 September 1998

Time to score for lambs lambs

CONDITION scoring is the basis of pre-tupping management and should be done now for spring lambing flocks, says Alistair Bird, Cotswolds based sheep specialist.

"Aim for body condition score 3-3.5 for lowland crossbred ewes, such as Mules. Split them into three groups and give thin ewes the best grazing," says Mr Bird.

"To increase an average 70-75 kg Mule ewe from condition score two to three means increasing live bodyweight by 12-14%, which is equivalent to about 10 kg."

He realises there may be more over-fit ewes about this year, which could decrease conception rates, but warns producers to be absolutely certain they are fat before taking action such as housing to reduce condition.

"This means condition scoring, which cant be done from the gate. Where ewes are condition score 4.5 -5, they may need housing on straw and water to reduce weight, but seek advice before this," he says.

Often, where ewes are over-fit, stocking at 4-5/ha (10 -12/acre) or more should reduce body condition score sufficiently before tupping.

He adds that where ewe condition score is 2.5-3, good grass will improve condition. Maintain fit ewes at condition score 3.5 and do not flush them, as it is not necessary. "Where concerns about grass quality exist, give ewes big bale silage. Where they eat it, they require extra food, so ensure it is available," says Mr Bird.

"When ewes are condition score 2 or below trough feed using a home-mix, or a proprietary tupping nut at 0.4-0.6 kg a day for six to eight weeks. Other suitable feeds are maize gluten or sugarbeet pulp nuts."

It is important not to forget rams. Check their testicles are even and flaccid and that feet are in good condition, he says. "Rams should also be fed a high protein supplement at 0.5 kg a head a day to maintain condition.

"Where extra rams are required, buy as soon as possible, so they can mix with the others before tupping begins. Where rams are used in small groups always use three instead of two, in case two of them fight all the time," he adds.n

TUPPING PREPARATION

&#8226 Condition score.

&#8226 Feed appropriately.

&#8226 Do not forget rams.