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Managing your ewe flock post-mating

Managing your ewe flock post-mating

Managing your ewe flock post-mating

With mating happening now or having just finished, now is the time to consider how to manage ewes through pregnancy to maximise the survival rates of the lambs and the ewes’ ability to produce large volumes of quality colostrum and milk.

Ewe nutrition far outperforms any impact drenching may have. Scanning enables accurate feed allocation to ewes carrying multiple foetuses. This is important where feed availability is tight due to prolonged drought. Having a feed budget allows you to understand how much feed and supplements can be directed to support these ewes.

As the foetus grows, it demands more energy and protein from the ewe, with most foetal growth occurring in the last six weeks of pregnancy. Ewes that maintain body condition score (BCS) of 3 to 3.5 give birth to heavier and more vigorous lambs. Lambs that are more vigorous at birth have a significantly higher survival rate.

Ewes with low BCS or have lost condition in the first 90 days of pregnancy, can result in poor placental development, which compromises foetal development and birth weight, often leading to lower lamb survival.

Internal parasites can build to levels which impact ewes through pregnancy and into early lactation. Hoggets and two-tooths are more prone to parasites, so plan now to create significant areas of the farm with low larval pasture contamination to lamb onto.

Lambs are worm polluters, so having fewer in the lambing country in the autumn reduces larval contamination. Cattle are also an effective tool for decontaminating pasture. The use of winter crops also spells pasture from ongoing contamination.

Mob monitoring of worm burdens via faecal egg counts, taken early in autumn and winter around scanning time, provides information for targeted anthelmintic treatments in different mobs if required. A reduction in ewe drenching is recommended by WormWise in managing drench resistance, so identify those to drench rather than deliver blanket treatments. Especially now, with some long-acting drench products being unavailable.

Iodine is a trace element required to help lambs maintain their body heat when born. It is depleted in ewes grazing winter brassica crops so consider supplementation by injection, oral dosing or feed blocks. An iodine deficiency can be seen in some areas when grazing pasture. Autopsies of newborn lambs help determine if there is an issue to manage.

If hoggets have been mated, they need to keep growing throughout pregnancy at a rate of 150 g per day to ensure good lamb birth weight and to reach live weight targets as a two-tooth. Poor growth through pregnancy results in the birth of lighter, less vigorous lambs and the hogget is less able to support the lamb.

For advice on managing ewes through pregnancy, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.