Whether breeding as ewe lambs or as gimmers, looking after these young ewes will positively affect the flock performance for the next year and improve their lifetime productivity. The ewe that lambs down well in her first year will stand a greater chance of lambing down well in future years. The first step is focusing on their nutrition to get them to target mating weights.
Those that choose not to mate ewe lambs, should be aware that this does not optimise their lifetime productivity. However, if the farm is stretched in terms of quality grass through the summer or labour at lambing time, not mating as ewe lambs can be justified. You should still aim to get them to 60% of their mature weight (40-55kg, depending on ewe size) by tupping time; this affects the onset of puberty and therefore their fertility. They should be treated as a fattening lamb – keep them growing well, regardless of whether they are mated or not.
Then of course, you need to consider your gimmers approaching tupping time. Through their second summer, dry gimmers will be of lower priority than the ewes and lambs but, come autumn, the emphasis needs to switch back to them. They should be at least 80% of their mature weight (52-72 kg, depending on ewe size) by mating. Getting the gimmer management right in the three months up to tupping will positively impact scanning percentage. Some farmers have increased their flock scan by 10% by focusing on gimmer management. Those that were mated as ewe lambs should be weaned in good time to give them opportunity to recover condition, particularly those ewe lambs have reared twins.
Mating as ewe lambs certainly adds pressure to the farm system – some do it well and, consequently, achieve greater lifetime productivity of their ewes. They also find, gimmers mated as ewe lambs tend to be better mothers. Whatever your decision, they are your future flock, start to prioritise them now to get them in good condition for a successful pregnancy.
Poppy Frater, firstname.lastname@example.org
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