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Preparing ewes for tupping

Preparing ewes for tupping

Preparing ewes for tupping

The body condition score (BCS) of two tooths and ewes, and liveweight of hoggets at tupping has a considerable impact on the kilograms of lamb weaned, regardless of how well they are fed during pregnancy and over lactation. Rams also require preferential treatment in the two months leading up to tupping to ensure high sperm quality.

Investing in feed and effort to get ewes to BCS 3 and raising the minimum tupping weight for hoggets can be profitable, so long as the feed consumed does not result in a deficit in late pregnancy. Pregnancy scanning is a good indication of how successful tupping was. If the docking percentage is less than 80 percent of the scanning (tailing percentage divided by scanning percentage), then it is likely the ewes were underfed at lambing and there is a need to focus on this area to improve profitability.

Identify the ewes that will return the greatest benefit from preferential feeding. Ewes with a very low BCS are unlikely to respond sufficiently to preferential treatment, so culling them should be considered. Fat ewes will not improve their performance either, but rather just get fatter, so managing them separately can conserve feed. It is the lower BCS ewes in the flock that will limit overall performance, so these are the ones to target with preferential feeding.

A mature ewe mainly requires energy to raise BCS, so high-quality feed is not essential if they are provided enough. Younger sheep, hoggets and two tooths are still growing so require higher protein and additional energy, which they can receive from better quality feed.

Using conserved feed and supplements can be rewarding while also helping to retain feed for the coming winter. Grains, meals and pellets are a good source of energy and may have added minerals and protein. High-energy blocks are also a good fit for smaller mobs.

Consider specialist forages at lamb finishing, particularly in summer dry regions. It will take at least two weeks for the rumen to adapt to digesting this diet, but the high feed quality and low worm challenge make them a good option.

Remember to supplement for trace element deficiencies such as selenium and iodine.

Seek advice when grazing lucerne and red clover prior to mating to avoid the possible effects of phytoestrogens.

Ewes in BCS 3 at tupping will wean up to 34 percent more kg of lamb than ewes in BCS 2.1 When considering efficient use of feed to drive profitability, make pre tup preparation a priority with the aim of identifying low BCS ewes in the summer and preferentially feeding them to be BCS 3 by tupping.

For help selecting a high-quality feed for your ewes this summer, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

1 Beef+Lamb New Zealand. (2014). Growing great lambs workshop resource book. Retrieved 15 November from