Breeding on mid-season lambing flocks may seem a while away yet, but preparing ewes for it cannot and should not be delayed.
Ideally, ewes should be examined 10 weeks before the start of breeding. If this is to be done now, it will bring you up to the start of October for those letting rams out at this time.
Giving yourself this time will allow you to build up condition on your ewes and allow time to sort out any health problems , while also giving you time to assess their progress before making a call if they will be put to the ram or not.
This time will also allow you to keep an eye on replacements coming through. At this stage, replacement ewe lambs should be picked out and continued to be assessed for suitability for breeding.
A full ‘NCT’ should be carried out to assess if they will be suitable to breed from again.
Emphasis should be placed on checking ewe’s teeth, feet, udder and body condition. In many cases, the issues outlined will be hard to undo if ewes have them and have been persisting, and in many cases will have been earmarked for culling already as a problem ewe is an unproductive and unprofitable ewe.
However, as always, some will always slip through the cracks, so take the opportunity when it presents itself to fully examine ewes when they are brought into the yard.
Issues such as ewes being thin or lame have a good chance of being rectified but will need time, and as such, getting on top of these problems sooner rather is key.
On the issue of thin ewes, ideally, a body condition score (BCS) of 3.0-3.5 would be the target for ewes at mating.
If a ewe has a BCS of 2.5, she won’t, overnight, put on enough condition to get up to 3.5. To gain this one unit of body condition or 12kg of bodyweight, that ewe will need 10 weeks to do so with access to good quality grass, according to Teagasc.
Of course there is not usually an even group of ewes, some are going to be thin and some are going to be heavier.
Therefore, it may be best to split ewes up into two groups, lighter and heavier and manage them accordingly so that they are in prime condition at breeding and farmers do not end up in a situation having ewes which are too thin or too heavy for breeding season.
If ewes who have presented with issues, be it being thin or lame, persist after a number of weeks, they should be culled to avoid further headaches and issues down the line.
As well as managing the main mature flock of ewes in the weeks ahead, it is as important to be managing and assessing potential replacement ewe lambs that have been picked out.
Ewe lambs that are not meeting expectations should be pulled away from the group and joined with the finishing lamb group(s).