This is the question many sheep farmers around the country should be asking as they begin thinking about preparing ewes for the next production cycle.
Farm systems scientist Tom Fraser says farmers need to start thinking about what they are going to do with the last of their store lambs, because these lambs will soon be competing with ewes for high quality feed going into mating.
“Is it worth trying to put an extra 2kg on your lambs at the expense of next year’s production?”
He says farmers need to think about their lamb finishing policy now, as if the ram goes out on April 1, they only have six weeks to get any light ewes up to a Body Condition Score of 3 ready for mating.
Tom says sheep farmers should be Body Condition Scoring their ewes now, taking out the lighter ewes and putting them on high quality lamb-finishing feed, while heavy ewes can be made to clean up rank pastures.
As a rule of thumb, ewes need to gain 7-9kg to left their Body Condition by one unit (lifting from a BCS of 2 to 3) and at a weight gain of 100gms/day, this takes 70-90 days.
Tom says sheep and beef farms in most regions have an abundance of dry, rank feed. The problem is where the whole farm is out of control in terms of feed quality and farmers should act now to clean at least some areas so that when autumn rains arrive, they grow some high-quality feed.
He says ewes are generally in good condition following a favourable spring and summer, so while it is a matter of maintaining of the bulk of the ewes, there will be lighter body condition ewes that should be identified and given priority feed. Similarly, heavy ewes can be given poorer quality feed for a short time.
Tom says a good rain in late February would be ideal. Any earlier and there is a risk that annual clovers will strike and the resulting seedlings fry in hot temperatures. By late February temperatures start to cool enough to favour the survival of these clovers which drive feed quality over autumn and spring.
Find out more
For more information on Body Condition Scoring go to: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/search?term=Body+Condition+Scoring
For more information on feed quality go to: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/search?term=Feed+quality
Contact your local B+LNZ Extension Manager if you would like workshops on Body Condition Scoring or Feed Quality run in your region.