With the last covering of snow now subsiding and more forecast as we approach the end of the year, it is worth considering the adverse impact of this weather on performance of sheep outside.
The biggest risk period at the moment will be for ewes in the early stage of pregnancy up to 45 days post tup introduction as highlighted by sheep specialist Poppy Frater in her update last year: Snow in early ewe pregnancy hazards and what to do.
Poppy highlights the importance of maintaining ewe body condition throughout this period and into mid pregnancy and how snow can vastly limit forage intakes essential for maintenance. It is also essential to monitor and supplement any youngstock also outwintered to maintain performance. Key points to consider during adverse winter weather include:
- Planning ahead if heavy snow is forecast bringing sheep to more sheltered pasture and easier access to feed.
- If feeding concentrate introduce early and gradually to aid rumen transition and intakes.
- Ensure you have sufficient forage reserves for stock on farm for at least 3 weeks of either an average quality silage or hay.
- Assess stock post a long period of weather and ensure leaner stock have a chance to regain condition for best performance.
- Consider water access – although time consuming to defrost troughs access to clean water is essential to stock at all times.
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