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Identifying and managing poor performing ewes

Identifying and managing poor performing ewes

A difficult season will always highlight the poorer performing ewes, writes Teagasc Sheep Specialist, Ciaran Lynch. One of the most effective ways of boosting flock performance is to remove the poorest performers or put in place the necessary interventions to address the underlying issues.

Some of these will be obvious culling reasons but, on occasion, you will find ewes in good condition that simply display either poor mothering ability or milk yield. Is it worth carrying these into the next season?

It has been challenging to keep ewes on target body condition this past season which will have an impact on this year’s lamb performance. Assessing body condition on ewes and managing accordingly is a useful management tool. Here are a couple of things to consider for thinner ewes:

  • Is there an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed e.g. lameness, fluke, poor mouths. Can these be addressed?
  • Can they be grouped separately and their lambs receive concentrate supplementation?
  • Is early weaning an option for this cohort to allow them longer to recover - may be a worthwhile consideration for younger ewes.

Looking forward, have you plans in place for weaning and subsequent management? Look back at last year’s performance and drafting. Are there potentially issues that can be addressed such as conducting a drench test? Do you need to establish finishing groups earlier in the season?

These are areas that are worth reviewing and will require some advanced planning to improve performance this season. Keep the focus on getting the basics right and what you can control inside the farm gate. Where issues occur, take action and don’t hesitate to seek advice.

This article was adapted from the ‘Key tasks in a tricky season’ article published in the May/June edition of Today’s Farm. Access the full publication here.