Scanning presents opportunity to be strategic with feed resources

// Feed Planning and Strategies

Foetal aging and Body Condition Scoring are two powerful tools farmers can use at scanning to help make the most efficient and effective use of limited feed resources.

ewes and mountains

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s John Ladley says both of these management tools will be particularly valuable this year when many regions across the country are experiencing feed shortages.

Foetal aging by the scanner is an option where farmers didn’t use ram crayons at mating. While this does cost more and can slow scanning down slightly, it will allow farmers to be more strategic with their feed, particularly when they are trying to build pasture covers in spring.

“It means later-lambing ewes can be kept on feed crops or winter feed paddocks for longer, taking the pressure off lambing pastures in that critical early spring period.”

He says investing in foetal aging will potentially be repaid in pre-weaning growth rates, as it will allow high-quality spring pastures to build ahead of peak lactation.

Similarly, Body Condition Scoring allows feed to be partitioned into stock that actually need it over winter and not ‘wasted’ on stock with a higher BCS.

John says scanning is the ideal time to be Body Condition Scoring as the ewes are in the yards anyway and the person pushing the ewes into the scanning crate is well positioned to BCS.

By placing a hand upon each ewe and assessing her Body Condition, it will be possible to determine whether she can be retained on maintenance feed, can be tightened up or need to go onto preferential feed.

At scanning time there is a small window of opportunity of around five weeks to add body condition to ewes with sub-optimal body condition scores. Ideally, all ewes should be at a BCS of 3 all year round.

Ewes with a BCS of 3-4 at lambing give birth to heavier lambs, are better mothers, have more milk and wean heavier lambs with a higher survival rate.

How to Body Condition Score

A hand is placed behind the 13th rib and using of the balls of the fingers and thumbs, feel the backbone with the thumb and end of the short ribs with the finger tips behind the last rib. Feel the muscle and fat cover around the end of the short ribs and backbone.

What does BCS 3 feel like?

The vertical processes are smooth and rounded; the bone is only felt with pressure. The horizontal processes are also smooth and well-covered; hard pressure with the fingers is needed to find the ends. The loin muscle is full with a moderate fat cover.

John says the actual numbers are not as important as consistency, so it is preferable for just one or two people to be doing the scoring.

Find out more

For more information about Body Condition Scoring, including videos, podcasts and fact sheets go to