News & Advice

Winter sheep management 

Jun 2, 2021 | Dry stock, Sheep

Tom David, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

For many of you, sheep scanning will be happening in the coming months. Scanning allows targeted feeding of stock to most accurately meet their requirements for optimal production.

Not only does scanning allow for better management of the ewe flock this year, it can be used to identify areas of ewe flock performance where losses may be occurring.

If you want to maximize ewe flock profit, scanning is a very important tool.

 

Levels of information

Wet-dry

The most basic level of information you get from scanning is wet or dry. Keeping dries is a waste of winter feed that productive animals need.

Get rid of dries and put the extra feed into your next crop of lambs, via the ewe.

 

Single or Multiple

The most common reason we hear farmers deciding not to scan is that they had bugger all dries so didn’t see the point. The wet-dry aspect is just a very small part of scanning.

More power is in the ability to meet the greatly different nutritional demands associated with different litter sizes. Feeding a single bearing and multiple bearing ewe on the same level is again a waste of winter feed.

If things are tight, single bearing ewes can obviously be pushed a bit more, and even set-stocked later than multiples.

 

Early/Late

 A typical mating period for sheep is between 42-51 days. The gestation period for sheep is around 147 days. A sheep that conceives in the first days of mating can thus be lambing when a late conceiving ewe is only entering the final trimester.

The nutritional requirements and the correct timing of animal health treatments administered can be very different. You are probably set-stocking some ewes that are almost 2 months from lambing, in a time where feed is traditionally tight.

If identified, late lambers can be held back on rotation to allow the earlier ewes to utilize feed before spring takes off.

Body condition scoring at scanning

Scanning is your last chance to correct any ewe body condition issues that will result in poor lamb survival and lamb growth. Ewes in better condition at lambing wean more and heavier lambs.

Feeding skinny and fat ewes the same is a waste of feed. Skinny ewes give a far greater production response to increasing feed levels than do well-conditioned ewes. A key way to improve ewe flock profitability is to reduce the number of low conditioned ewes in a mob. There is a window of 4-5 weeks post scanning where ewe body condition score can be improved before the drain of the fetus is too much.

You are probably already having to put a hand on the back of each ewe into the crate, so it’s not much extra effort to feel for body condition.

 

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