Mating ewe hoggets increases productivity by around 10% but may reduce grazing flexibility as you then have another high priority group for feed resources. If you are going to buy replacements then they will be more expensive so you need to get the best out of them. Plan ahead to maximise prolificacy and save labour by reducing the time they lamb to a minimum.
If you have a Mule flock and buy in replacements to tup you can expect 20 – 30% of these ewe lambs to produce twins provided they are well fed up to mating and on maintenance after. You will have to do a lot of cross-fostering. The best time to serve ewe hoggets is a week later than the main ewe mob as this is when most of the single mature ewes will be lambing. Consider using a lighter type of Texel or Beltex X ram for easier lambing. These make good lambs when cross-fostered and reared on a mature ewe, or reared as a single on a hogget.
However If you are lambing outside with a self replenishing ewe stock and not cross-fostering a good strategy is to mate ewe hoggets to the same ram as used on the main mob (good maternal features, easier lambing) and a month later. That way you can take the rams out of the main mob and use them on the ewe hoggets, putting terminal sire rams in with the main mob at this time. This reduces ram costs and provided you are using grass -fed rams that have not ‘melted’ they will cope. It also helps with building the flock as you have more replacements to choose from. Target ewe lamb weight at 60% of mature weight by mating
- Mate ewe hoggets for 27 days to keep the lambing period as short as possible.
- Put teasers in for 14 to 17 days (absolutely no longer) @ 1per 80 – 100 ewe hoggets and put the entire rams in as the teasers come out.
It is essential to keep ewe hoggets well away from rams, or even where the rams have been before teasing. Teased hoggets will nearly all be in heat within 10 days of entire ram introduction as there is a synchronising effect of teasing. Add another 17 days to catch the repeats (ewe lambs are only in heat for 12 hours and can get missed) and you shorten the mating period to 27days so the ewe hoggets all lamb in about a month. If it’s your first year lambing teased hoggets just give them 10 days with the entire ram.
Buy replacements at least 6 weeks before mating to allow for a quarantine period and ensure they are protected against toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion as well as the Clostridial diseases to maximise the return on your investment
John Vipond, Sheep Specialist
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