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Winter Rotational Grazing The Ewe Flock

26 November 2021

Winter is a great time for rotational grazing sheep as we know the likely grass growth (very little) and we can ration grass allocation to the pregnant ewe.  Those that have found their ewes are gaining condition during the winter may also find that rotational grazing helps keep them under control, so they are not too fat come lambing time.  Winter is the time when grazed grass is most valuable, so why not make it go further with rotational grazing?

They can be rotationally grazed during tupping time, although avoid grazing too low at this time.  As a rule, they should eat no more than half the green material offered to them. Let them have the best stuff and move them on.

Otherwise, start rotational grazing three weeks after tup removal and graze down to three to four centimetres.  Grazing short will benefit spring quality.  Stock around 10 ewes/hectare but do some checks to validate this –

  • Do they seem content?
  • Are they leaving 3-4 cm of grass?
  • How are they responding in terms of body condition?

Monitor body condition regularly, go through them at scanning time at least.  Post-scanning, provide more grass or additional feed to the thin, twin-bearing ewes by managing them with the triplets to get them to target condition for lambing.  Conversely, any fat twin-bearing ewes can be put with the singles.  They will all start to require more grass post-scanning regardless.

A contingency plan is essential.  Consider feed requirements if hit with heavy snow for three weeks.  Consider shelter or a plan to transition stock into the shed if required.  Earmark the fields least prone to poaching for use in wet weather.  It is always better to plan this ahead of time as quick reactive measures can go wrong, e.g. rapid diet change without a gradual transition can cause metabolic problems.

Feed budgeting helps understand how long the grass will last.  The winter feed budget for all grass wintering tool is designed for this purpose.  It requires measuring grass before the rotation – sward sticks are available from QMS, but this helps weigh up what additional feed might be required or how long grazed grass will last.

Poppy Frater,

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