When preparing ewes for tupping it is important to plan ahead. Beginning preparations up to ten weeks prior to tupping gives time to correct any issues and is most likely to result in a successful season.
The first thing to consider when preparing ewes for tupping is body condition score (BCS). If ewes go into tupping either too lean or too fat it can have impact on the success of their pregnancy and even effect the resulting lamb’s performance.
Lean ewes ovulate less eggs, which can mean they are likely to have less lambs. In contrast, although overweight ewes will ovulate more eggs, they have a greater risk of embryonic death.
At the start of tupping lowland breeds should be around BCS 3.5, upland breeds at BCS 3.0, and hill breeds at BCS 2.5. In the weeks running up to tupping ewes will ideally be on a rising plane of nutrition. This will help build their condition and maximise the chances of a successful pregnancy. Aim to have 90% of your ewes at their BCS target as tupping begins.
In order to ensure all ewes reach optimum condition, it can be useful to split the herd into three groups based on BCS – lean, fit, and fat. The lean ewes should have access to the highest quality grazing and should be supplemented with concentrates or additional forage if necessary. It can take between six to eight weeks for ewes to lift fat cover by one condition score, so planning ahead is vital.
Ewes which are not improving in condition should be checked for underlying health problems as this could have a substantial impact on their ability to conceive.
According to research, flushing, or the practice of feeding a diet high in protein and energy in the last few weeks before tupping, can result in higher scanning rates. However, flushing should not be seen as short-term fix and it will have little impact on ewes which are below BCS 2.0 and above BCS 4.0.
Although it is very important to ensure your ewes are well prepared for tupping, it is also important to not forget about the ram. Carry out a ram ‘MOT’ 10 weeks prior to tupping paying particular attention to the 5 T’s:
Ensuring both your flock is healthy and in great condition before tupping begins will help ensure a successful tupping season.
Feeding and breeding programs should reflect and be designed to hit the market at the right time, in order to give you the best margins.
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