Have you enough space to house your ewes for the breeding season?

With the breeding season underway, sheep farmers across the country will be preparing for the busy months that lie ahead.

Farmers have two options when it comes to mating their ewes this autumn.

One option is to graze the ewes and rams together on pasture. This is the most common method used across the country. It’s cheap and less labour intensive compared to housing ewes.

The other option is to house ewes and rams. This is carried out when ewes are being sponged in order to condense the lambing period in spring.

If this is the case, farmers should pay careful consideration to the size of the shed available. Overcrowding can lead to a significant reduction in animal performance.

This could lead to ewes becoming stressed and possibly aborting.

This table (below) outlines the minimum floor space ewes of different weight categories require.

Source: Teagasc

In order to increase production (conception rates) from ewes over the course of the breeding season, it is advisable to group animals in accordance with their weight.

This will stop heavier animals from bullying lighter animals for space at the feed-face.

Furthermore, when ewes are ready to be scanned in early December, they should be grouped in accordance with how many lambs they are carrying. Single-bearing ewes; twin-bearing ewes; and triplet-bearing ewes should be penned separately.

This is to ensure that the ewes are fed the required amount of feed to maintain their body condition but also to support the growing fetus.

Therefore, it is critical that ewes have enough feeding space to compete with other ewes.

Source: Teagasc

Along with adequate feed space, sheep should always have access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Farmers should ensure that there is a continual flow of fresh air throughout the shed. In addition, drafts should be kept to a minimum to prevent sheep from getting chills.