Vets are encouraging sheep farmers to conduct body condition assessments to maximise the productivity of their flocks and reduce potential health and welfare problems.

Scoring is a simple, effective and cheap management tool for all flock owners to use to evaluate the body reserves of adult sheep. To assess the amount of fat cover and muscle mass, flock keepers can carry out a simple manual check of the animal.

Through the Stoc+ animal health planning project, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is encouraging farmers to conduct body condition scoring.

Body condition scoring allows farmers to adjust the flock’s nutrition to maximise productivity and reduce health and welfare problems that are associated with lean or overfat body condition. Other benefits can include higher lambing and rearing percentages and reduced metabolic disorders.

Emlyn Roberts of Esgairgawr farm in Rhyd-y-main, Dolgellau believes that Body condition scoring is a great asset on his farm.

On his hill farm, Roberts has a flock of over 800 Meirionnydd Welsh Mountain ewes and a herd of Welsh Black cattle and is part of the Hill Ram Scheme and Stoc+, two elements of HCC’s strategic Red Meat Development Programme.

Roberts said: “Body condition scoring is of great importance here at Esgairgawr, as it’s crucial to get the ewes in the right condition pre-tupping and pre-lambing. Body condition scoring is a vital tool for the ewes to thrive and perform on the mountain. Combined with recording the performance, we have to make sure the ewes are in optimum condition to maximise production.”

Claire Jones of Dolgellau Vets, who is one of the Stoc+ vet Ambassadors and Roberts’ vet practice explained: “Body condition scoring at weaning or at the very latest, eight weeks before tupping is vital.

"By assessing score at this time, there is an opportunity to adjust the management of individual ewes if the score is too low or too high.

It takes approximately eight weeks to increase one condition score in a typical situation, so monitoring the flock regularly is beneficial.

“Body condition scoring is particularly useful on hill farms where the physical conditions imposed by the changeable weather and poorer grazing impose significantly greater stresses than in the low land situation, but is beneficial for all flocks.”