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21-12-2016

Farmers urged to get it right first time with ewe and lamb performance

Afbeelding: smallholder-sheep

More than 50 sheep farmers from across the region attended a technical event at Chillington Hall, near Wolverhampton in early December, aimed at maximising performance through the life of a ewe.

The event, hosted by feed company ForFarmers, bought together industry nutrition and veterinary experts to look at maximising ewe health to help achieve easier lambing and strong, healthy lambs.

Dan Stevenson, BVSc, MRCVS, from Lambert Leonard & May led an interactive and engaging presentation on ewe management and urged farmers to group their ewes wherever possible. “Even with smaller flock numbers, grouping will allow for better management through increased feed availability, less disease pressure and targeted nutrition needs,” explained Dan. 

He also gave an insight into the importance of Body Condition Scoring (BCS) ewes, saying: “BCS affects lots of key heath criteria such as fertility, placental growth, lamb growth in uterine, colostrum quality and quantity and lamb birth weight. “BCS is a relatively easy tool to use and if done at the right time, will help with better ewe management allowing farmers to make informed decisions and take appropriate action to improve performance,” said Dan.

Dan also advised the group on managing disease and discussed the timing of worming vaccines to get the most out of treatment.  The group discussed their own routines to manage liver fluke, with Dan giving his advice on ensuring the right animals are treated at the right time, with the most appropriate product.     

Chris Elliott, ForFarmers Technical Manager talked about getting the best from the ewe’s diet. He discussed the importance of energy in the diet explaining that: “75% of lamb growth takes place in the last six weeks before birth, but at the same time there is a 30% drop in ewe appetite as lambing approaches, due to the rumen being restricted by the growing lamb, limiting intake. “It is therefore essential to provide adequate nutrition in the run up to lambing to avoid a shortfall in essential energy which can impact lamb birth weight, and ultimately lamb survival,” Chris explained.

He advised farmers to feed less of better quality feed sources; especially at the time a ewe’s intake starts to decline. Chris also looked at vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and the crucial roles they play in the diet.  “Farmers only get one chance a year to get lambing right, and feeding correctly to ensure a healthy ewe is key to producing healthy lambs that go on to achieve good growth and all-important finishing weights,” he concluded.

Attendees at the event were also given an introduction to management of the 1,200 strong flock at the Chillington Estate, and flock manager Laura Thearle, discussed some of the challenges she had faced when she took over the flock a year ago, which included low body condition scores and slow finishing rates, as well as poor pasture. “It has been a challenging 12 months,” Laura explained. “We have been working hard to address the soil and grass issues with specialist help, and through our vet and feed advisor we are making good progress with the flock and are working towards are goal of producing better lambs that finish quicker.”   

Attendees at the event took part in a tour of the estate, which included a look at the main commercial flock, as well as the farm’s milking sheep and pedigree Poll Dorsets.