Ewes too thin

7 February 1997

Ewes too thin

SHEEP producers housing ewes in the run-up to lambing must handle them to assess condition as soon as possible.

Many ewes in the south of the country are too thin, warns ADAS sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings.

"Producers housing flocks six to eight weeks off lambing are getting a shock – condition is not as good as it should be," she says. "If you have not handled ewes in the past fortnight do so straight away. The past few winters have not prepared us for this years conditions, and some ewes have had a hard time."

She advises scoring the ewes and feeding to condition. "Thin ewes which have been scanned, need moving up a gear through the litter sizes. Feed those carrying singles as if for twins, and the twins for triplets. Producers who have not scanned should separate the leaner ewes and bring feeding regimes forward a couple of weeks."

Hill ewes are in better condition, says Brian Merrell of ADAS Redesdale, but he advises producers to scan wherever possible.

He advises producers to pregnancy scan if possibles. With ewes fit at mating, there could well be more twins then usual, he says. He plans to start scanning the Redesdale flock next Friday, about 90 days into pregnancy and eight weeks before lambing begins on Apr 14.

FEED according to condition and litter size, and ensure the housing meets ewes needs, says Elwyn Rees of ADAS Reading.

"Thin ewes under score two should be allocated to separate pens at housing and fed at a higher rate." Mr Rees suggests that a typical 70kg ewe under condition score 2.5 will need an extra 0.1-0.2kg (0.22-0.44lb) a day of a concentrate at about 18% protein concentrate.

If housing space is limited he suggests giving priority to aged and first-crop ewes and to those which are thin or expecting multiple births.

Sheds should be draught free and well ventilated to avoid chilling and stop the ewe losing bodyweight. Lying space should be 1sq m for a 70kg ewe, and group-size below 50 ewes, he says. "Try penning those carrying similar litter sizes and of a similar age together."

He reckons trough space must allow at least 15cm (6in) a ewe when forage is fed ad lib, and 45cm (18in) for concentrate feeding. He also recommends ensuring the bedding area is dry and providing a clean supply of fresh water.

MANY grass swards in the south of the country are in trouble due to the lack of rain, and sheep producers could be short of grass for ewes and lambs this spring, warns ADAS sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings.

Producers should be prepared to feed through the gap and to start looking around for possible supplements – fodder beet or c quota sugar beet are possibilities. But ewes on these low protein root crops would need feeding small amounts of a higher protein concentrate to balance the diet.

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