As sheep producers begin to wean lambs off their mothers, now is a good time to assess the body condition of ewes ahead of flushing and tupping.
Speaking to Farmers Weekly, sheep specialists said the wet summer had created problems for producers in terms of quality and availability of grazing, and the knock-on effect of delays to silaging.
“There is plenty of grass about generally, but it’s been so wet and the ground conditions are not very good,” said SAC sheep and beef specialist Rhidian Jones.
“When the grass is wet, it takes a bit more effort for the sheep to get the DM they need and it doesn’t do their feet any good – it creates lameness problems, which affects their condition and ability to graze.”
He said now was the perfect time of year to wean lambs, offering a good chance to sort through ewes and prioritise them for grazing.
This was backed up by EBLEX beef and sheep scientist Liz Genever, who recommended producers to sort their ewes into three different groups – thin, all right and fat – dependent on body condition score.
“The biggest thing to think about is body condition scoring sheep – flushing generally only works when sheep are on a rising plane of nutrition, and it’s the most effective when the sheep’s body condition score is slightly below target,” she said.
Once sheep have been sorted into groups, grazing priorities can be established; priority must be given to the thinner ewes which needed to graze fields which have 6-8cm of grass growth, she added.
Fat ewes can be put on less favourable pasture where they will need to work harder to get to the grass, and those which are about right on condition score (2.5-3) need to be kept on maintenance, which is approximately 4-5cm of grass growth.
“Post-weaning, some thin sheep might be that way because they are young or because they have done a great job with their lambs,” added Dr Genever.
“But when you go back in a month later to check on the sheep, if these sheep are still thin then the decision is probably taken to remove them from the flock.”
She said producers should continue to cull any sheep, post-weaning, which have bad teeth or udders. “If they are not in the right body condition score by flushing and tupping, you are always going to be chasing your tail.”
Body condition targets
Hill ewes Upland ewes Lowland ewes At weaning 2 2 2.5 At tupping 2.5 3 3.5 Mid-pregnancy 2 2.5 3 At lambing 2 2.5 3 Source: Eblex
For more information on sheep production go online to our Flock Focus section . In addition, EBLEX has a whole range of downloadable manuals on sheep fertility including advice on body condition scoring and tupping. For more information, visit the EBLEX website.