Sheep: Under-conditioned ewes will get preferential feeding
As hard as it is to believe we are now back preparing for lambing 2017.
This may seem a bit premature as most of the 2016 lamb crop is still with us, but we are only eight weeks away from sponging the ewes. At weaning time we checked the BCS of the ewes and all were at a satisfactory level with an overall flock average on the Smartgrass study of 2.8.
These ewes were then restricted in terms of their energy intake post weaning to shut down milk supply, so we will recheck them tomorrow and make our decisions in terms of grass allocations between now and mating.
We target a BCS at mating of 3.5 and recent research carried out by Frank Campion highlights the positive relationship between BCS and subsequent ewe reproductive performance. There were some differences between the treatments on the Smartgrass study in terms of ewe BCS at weaning with the multispecies swards (either containing 6 species, or 9 species giving higher ewe BCS and live weight at weaning than the ewes grazing PRG or PRG plus white clover swards).
Ewes in all treatment groups were pretty consistent in terms of BCS so hopefully we will not have to sub-divide the flocks between thin and well-conditioned ewes between now and mating.
We already have eight separate flocks to manage so don't want to increase this any further.
At a commercial level however there is a strong argument to be made for targeted preferential feeding of under-conditioned ewes.
This may mean splitting off thin ewes and giving them some preferential feeding, either through better quality grass or a longer flushing period.