With the recent bad weather, it is tempting to graze the well sheltered lambing/turnout fields through the winter, but keep in mind that these fields do need adequate rest if they are going to be of value for lambing.
Ideally these priority fields should be grazed hard early in the winter followed by 90-100 day rest period to provide quality and quantity grass for ewes and lambs. Remember, ewes should be bred well to be hardy in cold wet weather, it is when they have high nutritional demand that we really need to worry about them – late pregnancy and through lactation.
A way of keeping an eye on them in these conditions is to condition score. Are they losing condition? If so, we need to consider increasing their feed allocation, reducing their stocking densities and consider means to improve their shelter. Are they maintaining condition? Then, providing they are on target, the feeding is about right. Are they gaining condition? Even better, as long as they are not getting too fat, fit ewes are well set up to see their pregnancy through.
Minimising soil damage is another concern. We can localise the damage with sacrifice fields or graze arable stubbles to prevent soil compaction on the grazing land. Those rotational grazing their flock can graze them tighter but move more frequently thereby reducing the severity of the compaction damage and providing a longer recovery period. If you have made good quality silage or hay this year, make sure enough of the best stuff is kept for when it is needed most – the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. The best stuff is often at the bottom of a silage pit so you might consider means for feeding clamp silage in late pregnancy.
See Body Condition Scoring of Mature Sheep Technical note here for more information on body condition scoring ewes.
Poppy Frater, email@example.com
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