Grazing alone cannot always be relied upon to maximise ewe and ram fertility. We should not be complacent about mineral and trace element deficiencies pre-tupping, which is an important time of the flock reproduction cycle.
Even when grass growth has been good, essential trace elements can still be deficient and hinder fertility. Forage trace element analysis from across the UK has consistently found a lack of cobalt, selenium and other trace elements. This is often the case even at sites which have good quality grazing.
Thought should be given to the way trace-elements are provided in the diet. Trace element drenches such as Wynnstay AllVit T are an effective way of supplying a range of minerals quickly and effectively.
Preparations for tupping should start up to 8-10 weeks before the rams are turned out with the ewes, but at the very latest, six weeks before tupping commences. Give yourself plenty of time to rectify any problems or source replacement stock. Pay close attention to the key components of the diet to ensure fertility levels across the whole flock are maximised. Getting micronutrition right pre tupping will support fertility, and will lead to the best chance of a good scanning result and a healthy lamb crop in 2018. Drench ewes 3-4 weeks pre tupping to help ensure this.
Don’t forget the tups! All too often they can be neglected, and as they contribute 50% of the genetics to the flock, it is important that their condition is considered as well as the ewes pre-tupping. For example, sperm production typically takes six to eight weeks, so start ram preparations early, at the same time as ewes, to ensure this isn’t compromised. Consider drenching tups at 8 weeks and 4 weeks pre-tupping.
As the year progresses, it’s time to start thinking about the autumn parasite challenges, we’ve seen some very high worm egg counts this year which could continue into the tupping season. Continuation of the current warm, wet weather could result in us seeing an earlier fluke challenge too.
In order to increase performance in any flock, it is important to consider regular body condition scoring (BCS) in order to identify any drastic changes in ewe condition not noticeable through observation alone. Through this you can ensure that ewes are on target for the system and the time of year, and in turn will result in improved fertility, increased lamb performance and reduced incidence of metabolic diseases.
Blowfly is the main external parasite traditionally affecting sheep in the late spring and summer months. Changing weather patterns have resulted in an increasingly unpredictable and lengthening season: it is now not uncommon to hear of strike as early as February and as late as November.
With warmer weather enabling a longer grazing season and milder winters leading to more parasite survival, farmers need to have some degree of knowledge about parasites on their farm and in their area. As well as monitoring parasite risks by using the Parasite Watch map, farmers should also be using faecal egg counts and monitoring growth rates.
Elevated energy demands placed on pregnant ewes in late gestation mean sheep can lose condition and suffer from twin lamb disease. This produces ketones as fat reserves are used as an energy source as opposed to glucose in the blood stream.
Animal health is a key aspect in any enterprise and with lambing season already beginning in some areas, take a proactive approach to maximise ewe and lamb performance. The majority of lamb losses occur during the first 48 hours of life, but this could be avoided by focusing on ewe and lamb nutrition.
You now have a straightforward way of evaluating the effectiveness of your sheep lameness control strategy, thanks to a useful new flock assessment tool. The practical ‘Lameness Control Planner’ from MSD Animal Health gives you a simple, yet highly visual ‘where are you now’ method of identifying whether your lameness management protocol is unbalanced in any way.
In order to achieve maximum economic returns from lambs this autumn/winter, sheep farmers need to plan production and resources to decide how to finish the lambs or sell them as stores to meet the requirements of the chosen market.
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