Body condition scoring (BCS) assesses the amount of fat and condition of the ewe by feeling the spine and short ribs over her back.
Why is BCS so important in ewes? It:
- Increases kilogram of lamb weaned per hectare
- Increases weaning weight per lamb
- Increases the number of lambs weaned per hectare
- Condenses ewe conception rates
- Increases the kilograms of meat and fibre produced per hectare.
The aim is to have all ewes to have a BCS above three (on a scale of one to five) all year round. A link to how to BCS ewes is: https://bit.ly/2DLDqZd The single most important factor influencing the profitability of a ewe flock is the percentage of ewes that are below BCS of three at mating and at lambing.
Advantages of body condition scoring:
- By condition scoring your flock, you can identify ewes that require preferential feeding, those that only need maintaining, and those that need to be culled.
- You can split the mob accordingly to boost overall production and increase conception rates in the first mating cycle. This will reduce the number of tail end ewes.
BCS is a more accurate measure of ewe condition/ fat cover than weighing the ewe.
- You need to put your hand on each ewe to get an accurate measure of their condition.
- Breed/ frame size, stage of pregnancy and fleece cover are all factors that will influence the weight of the ewe.
When to BCS sheep:
- Every time that you bring the sheep in i.e. drenching and vaccinating.
- At weaning – six weeks out from mating, after a month of preferential feeding re-check the ewes that were less than BCS of three.
- At scanning time: There is still a chance to make a difference before lambing.
- A well fed ewe is considered the best shelter a lamb can have.
- Lamb survival falls by 5% for every 0.5 BCS lost between scanning and lambing.
- A ewe in optimal body condition (three +) produces vigorous lamb(s). They will get up to feed quicker and if twins are born in different locations they will vocalise more.
- Putting heavily pregnant ewes on light feed doesn’t produce smaller lambs, it just produces weaker lambs. And ewes with less colostrum.