18 August 1995

Why let a poor ewe ruin you?

THE most expensive sheep you ever buy is the one that leaves the farm dead, says ADAS senior sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings.

"With the ability to claim premium on replacements, there is no excuse not to cull a poor ewe," said Ms Stubbings. Culling would depend in part on body condition, and for main crop lambing ewes there was still time to turn thin ewes round before tupping – provided they were capable of it.

"Youll need to put them onto some decent going- this year it will be supplementary feed rather than grass," she said. "In four to six weeks, re-assess their condition – those still not responding are wasting your time."

Udders, teeth snd feet of ewes should also be examined. "Check her incisor teeth are short, broad and meet the dental pad," she said. Cheek teeth were just as important. "As animals get older, or even with younger stock in some pedigree breeds, molars grow uneven and fail to grind over each other," she said.

To check these teeth she advised running fingers along the outside of the ewes jaw. "You can feel growths or bumps or when the teeth are uneven," she said.

Tell-tale signs of poor cheek teeth were green flecks down the side of the face and on to the shoulder – and also cuds lying in pens.

Next on the culling check-list were udders. Mastitis could occur post-weaning as a hard lump, and infected quarters would be no good next season.

She felt too few producers treated feet and chronic offending ewes as culling candidates. "Its vital to tackle feet problems, and to do it seriously," she said.

As for foot rot, the older the ewe and the longer she has had foot rot the smaller the chance of being able to cure it. "No matter how much you trim, you will not be able to expose all the infection and as time goes on it becomes more painful for the ewe."

When embarking on a rigorous programme to reduce foot rot, now was a good time to start with ewes weaned and dry. "Put offenders to one side," said Ms Stubbings. "Ewes which fail to respond to antibiotics and trimming within three to four weeks should be culled for they will perpetuate foot rot in the flock for next season."

When it came to making culling decisions it helped when ewes that had caused trouble at lambing had been identified at that time with a colour-coded ear-tag. &#42

Incisor teeth should be short, broad and meet the dental pad – and not as demonstrated by this old ewe, says ADAS sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings.