More and more research illustrates the effect of condition score on the rearing success of the ewe flock. For example, Teagasc, the Irish Research and Advisory Agency, have recorded a 10% increase in rearing rate for ewes that are one condition score greater at mating time (within the range of 2.5-4). This makes a compelling argument to focus on ewe condition between weaning and mating time to improve returns next year.
Many ewes will be leaner at weaning this year as they will have utilised more of their fat reserves to provide milk to their lambs. It is their fat reserves that make the difference when there is insufficient grass. Ewes will compensate, providing that they are given the opportunity to regain condition after weaning.
The energy required to put on condition is greater than the energy released when they lose it. Therefore, it is always more efficient to try and prevent too much condition loss in summer. Giving lactating ewes ample quality feed is the way to achieve this. This strategy only works when grass is plentiful. The other way to improve feed efficiency is by weaning by the time the lambs are 12 weeks old.
Looking towards 2019, we now need to consider next year’s lamb crop. Ewes need to become the priority. Two weeks after weaning, go through the ewes and batch them according to condition; those above condition score 2.5 (the fitter ewes) vs. those below condition score 2.5 (the leaner ewes). The aim is to get then to condition score 3.5 by tupping for lowland farms or 2.5 by tupping for hill ewes – or in other words: not too fat, not too thin – with greater emphasis on the ‘too thin’ side.
Some will need to gain over one condition score by tupping time, for a 75 kg ewe, this can be up to 10 kg. Priority feed the lean ewes to get them on target. If you don’t condition score at any other time of the year, do it now, this is the time it makes the difference.
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