Feeding your ewes in the autumn
Well planned and managed feeding of ewes post weaning and in the period leading up to and around tupping is the first key step to successfully securing next seasons production.
On hill country farms ewe condition should be the driver of the majority of management decisions. Condition on ewes is like money in the bank, in tight times you can withdraw some, but ideally you should always remain above overdraft - body condition score (BCS) 3. With mating around the corner tail end ewes should have been identified and running as a smaller mob to allow them to put condition on prior to mating. The sale lamb policy should be constantly reassessed, based on feed availability and ewe condition, not based on the schedule price. This can be easier said than done. By March any decisions around mating hoggets should have been made and plans to achieve this should be well in place.
The common challenges that prevent us from having a perfect mating can include:
Discovering you have more light ewes than you would like three weeks before mating is too late. 70 % of what a ewe eats goes towards body maintenance and the additional towards weight gain. The challenge is that from February onwards the feed quality drops and it becomes more challenging for ewes to gain weight. In years of high growth like this summer it can be tempting to get ewes to go onto clean up duty and not notice a drop in condition. Note that a ewe has to gain 7kg to gain a condition score. BCS your ewes on a regular basis so you don’t get caught out. BCS and conception rate are strongly linked.
High challenges can cause ewes to lose weight, remember that those with clinical signs are only the tip of the iceberg. In future years FE may become more of an issue in areas like the Tararua where the challenge is not as common.
It’s easy to think I’ll just put an extra couple of kgs on those lambs, especially when the price is high (or low). The downside of this is that it can unintentionally drop weight off ewes as lambs are held for longer and are the feed priority.
A lack of rain can throw all the best made plans out the window.
So, what are your options if it goes dry?
- Step 1. No hogget mating this year
- Step 2. Look for cow grazing – often outside the district
- Step 3. Sell surplus trade stock
- Step 4. Cull ewes below BCS 2.5
- Step 5. Cull ewes below x kg