Are your Ewes Skinny?

Body conditioning scoring Sheep

Light ewes at mating will have worse lambing performance come Spring. Ewes should be at condition score 3 to 3.5 for mating – this is not a “fat” ewe.

What does 3-3.5 look like? Well if there is more than 6 weeks wool on the sheep, you will have to FEEL to get the full picture. To do this;

Step one: Place hand with thumb on top of spine and fingers along the short ribs (flank area).
Step two: With your thumb, you should be able to feel the spine but, find it hard to count the bones.
Step three: With your fingers, do the same as above for the short ribs. The muscle between these bones should be flat to round (not hollowed).

Learn what a 3 feels like! Every animal will fit into two groups from there;

Category 1: 3 or above – maintenance feeding.
Category 2: Below 3 – increase feed.

Pulling out your lower scored ewes will have a big impact on them. They won’t necessarily need to be fed more, just being in a smaller mob is likely to help. It is recommended to feed pastures of 5-6 cm. Don’t go below 3cm (1,500 kgDM/ha) as stock will lose weight on this. Feed quality is an issue this year on many farms. Now is a good time to review your lamb kill policy and see where you are at. Ensure that you don’t have too many lambs on for too long! This could result in not being able to sufficiently prepare your ewes for mating. Remember an extra few dollars on your lambs this season could cost you numbers of lambs to sell next year. There is profit in numbers.

For further information on condition scoring, take a look at the Beef and Lamb website and go to the ‘Knowledge Hub’. You will find further information, videos, animations etc that can be used by farmers and staff alike.

- Donna Hamilton


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