Sheep farming

5 Ways to Improve Ewe Fertility

To save time, use tried and tested methods to improve ewe fertility. This will result in healthier pregnancies and more lambs each year, thus more profit.

Keep the best flock 

If a ewe is barren, she is likely to be barren again. Equally, if udders are in bad shape or the ewe is lame, she is less suitable for breeding. Most commonly these sheep are replaced in the breeding flock, preserving a prosperous flock overall.

In order to pick out the most fertile ewes and identify ones with poor performance, mark sheep with coloured-coded tags. Come tupping season, it’ll be far easier to replace or cull them.

 

Healthy weight is key

A healthy Body Condition Score (BCS) sits in the middle of the scale: 1 to 5. At 1 the sheep is too thin and, at 5, too fat. Depending on whether the ewe is a hill sheep or lowland, between 2.5 and 3.5 is ideal, but lowland sheep can be fatter.

Sheep should maintain a healthy BCS score for at least three weeks before tupping. They can be flushed on good quality grass and feed a couple of weeks beforehand, but don’t rely on this method. It is far more productive to score sheep to judge their weight and then plan a healthy diet accordingly.

To condition score sheep, place one hand over the backbone and loin area behind the last rib. Feel to see if the spinous and transverse processes are prominent and sharp or not detected at all. If the loin is thin and has no fat cover, the sheep is too thin, if it is rounded with a thick covering of fat, the sheep needs to slim down.

Ewe Fertility 1

 

Top Tip: Use the same hand for every score for a more accurate result

Scan during pregnancy

Scanning sheep in pregnancy will tell you how many lambs the ewe is carrying, which informs the diet. Twins, for example, often need supplements for trace element and Vitamin E. Triplets often benefit from protein-rich feeds, especially where colostrum might not satisfy lambs.

If you keep accurate records and scan sheep during pregnancy, you’ll be able to see how many lambs were scanned and how many were born. Records will demonstrate if lambs are being lost during pregnancy, aborted or born dead. Thus, problem areas are identified, helping to target improvement.

 

Feeding groups

The simplest way to satisfy different dietary needs is to separate ewes into different feeding groups:

  • Thin ewes should be fed on grass 6-8cm in height or given additional supplementary feed if this is not available
  • Check that average weight ewes maintain a healthy BCS
  • Fat ewes should be fed on poorer pasture to reduce their condition

Vaccination

To help prevent abortion ewes should be vaccinated 4-6 weeks before tupping. Young or thin sheep, in particular, will likely need a wormer and all ewes protected from parasitic liver fluke.

To avoid abortion or weak lambs being born, protect ewes against toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion. Vaccination is much more cost efficient than sourcing good replacements.

 

For further information please see the product’s SPC or contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible).

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