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More Sheep Issues To Look Out For In This Extreme Weather

5 February 2021

Other things to watch for during this adverse weather:

  1. Don’t forget about away wintered ewes, their host farmer may have their hands full looking after their own stock.  Check in on them – how do they look in terms of ground conditions, body condition, shelter, grass supply?  Have you discussed additional feeding arrangements such as buckets and forage?  If having to feed them anyway, are you as well bringing them back and feeding them on your home turf?
  2. Ewes that don’t eat!  Unfortunately, if ewes have not been trained to eat hard feed, it can be a challenge to get them to eat now.  If practical, bring them into smaller fields and tempt them with high energy rolls, provide blocks as a minimum.
  3. Feet issues.  The wet muddy ground is a risk factor for contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) and footrot.  Try to minimise poaching by moving feeding areas away from poached ground or putting straw down in areas where they gather.  Pull out those infected and treat promptly.  Bad feet will affect their intakes causing inadequate nutrition.  Make a note of those with persistent issues – you do not want to retain those genetics in the flock.
  4. Look out for eye issues – the driving winds, snow and eating wet conserved forages can cause painful eyes and blindness.  Shelter and adequate feeding space help reduce risk.
  5. Adapt management with care – if you do decide to bring them indoors, transition them carefully.  Ideally with a forage they are familiar with, from being fed outside, and if hard feeding, start at no more than 0.25kg and increase by 0.05 to 0.1kg/day.  They should have at least 1m2 space per ewe indoors.  Let them settle before any other management intervention such as veterinary treatments.

Poppy Frater, 

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