Farmers want a high lambing percentage to increase profits, but poor planning can lead to poor performance. For success in tupping season, plan for healthy pregnancies: Adopt a healthy nutrition plan and assess the body condition of ewes. This will encourage higher ovulation rates, twin and triplet births, and lower rates of aborted pregnancies.
As soon as weaning begins, it’s time to consider tupping season and every member of the flock. Here are three vital things to consider in advance:
1. Keep a healthy flock
Poor nutrition and body condition affect ovulation rate, which means fewer lambs are born. Check ewes are primed for a healthy pregnancy and the tup is ready for mating season.
Health of the ram
Ten weeks before you plan to use your tup, assess fertility. Check for:
Physical health: Is the ram in good condition?
Lameness: Is there an injury that could affect the ram’s performance?
Sperm: Check for lumps or abnormalities in the testicles and scrotum that could affect sperm or semen production, then, with the help of your vet, check the sperm is active.
The tup should be prepared for the number of ewes (a typical batch is c60) and should be able to inseminate 85% of them when in peak condition.
Health of the ewe
Three to four weeks before tupping, it’s important that ewes maintain a healthy weight. This is measured using a Body Condition Score (BCS): 1 is low and 5 is high.
A score of 2 or less is generally considered underweight and 4 or above is overweight. Hill ewes can be leaner with an optimal score of 2.5 to 3. Lowland ewes should score between 3 and 3.5. Any ewes that are too thin should be introduced to concentrate feeding or be fed on better grass. In contrast, fat ewes can be fed on poor pasture to reduce their condition.
At least 90% of your flock should reach the target score in advance of tupping season, so start monitoring early. Depending on the food supply it can take a few months to recover a poor score. Typically, farmers replace 20-25% of their stock every season since there is no benefit in keeping a thin ewe; they will simply produce fewer lambs.
One of the most important things you can do is keep a clear record of all your efforts. Do this every year and you’ll be able to look back over each season to determine which methods have been most effective and help grow your success rate year on year.
For further information please refer to the product SPC, or contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support 0845 3008034. www.zoetis.co.uk. Always seek the advice of your medicines provider. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible).
Dave is an RCVS advanced practitioner in Sheep Health and Production. He qualified from the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in 2004, working mainly as a production animal veterinary surgeon, until joining Zoetis (previously known as Pfizer Animal Health) in 2010 as an Area Veterinary Manager. In 2015 Dave joined the Zoetis National Veterinary Manager team.
Dave’s areas of interest are the health and production of sheep and the sustainable control of parasites in farm animals. He is the chair of the NOAH anti-parasitics committee and sits on various national cross industry bodies including the sustainable control of parasites in sheep (SCOPS) board.
Dave is from a farming background and still manages his own flock of pedigree Texel and commercial mule sheep on the Welsh-Shropshire border.