March is crunch time for setting up sheep breeding units for next season's production. We would all like to be lifting ewes up to optimum mating weight about now.
Talking to Simon Englebrecht, Dunback East Otago, last year was a very dry start to autumn, but he still managed to achieve very good ovulation rates during the dry conditions. There was a lack of green quality grass then and it looks like we're heading into a similar scenario this year. Simon fed sheep nuts leading up to tupping. The supplement program not only allowed ewes to maintain and even put on weight over autumn, it enables blocks to be spelled. "When it did rain we carried on feeding the nuts to allow pasture to recover."
If you don't have quality feed for ewes pre-tup or in the first cycle of mating a high energy supplement can be justified if it results in more lambs at weaning and ewes in better shape for winter. To make the supplement investment even more targeted, feed out to only BCS 2 (light ewes) or 2 tooths.
When you are doing your pre-tup animal health it is of great value to weigh and measure the condition of the mob at 2 points. Ovulation rate is significantly influenced by body weight and condition. In the table below are some generic targets for capital stock.
For light ewes you cannot expect to put on more than 150g/day liveweight (50-100g/day is realistic). Aim to have less than 10% in this category by mating. Farmers who have realised it is the light ewe management where the biggest gains in production can be made will have dealt with them at weaning (culled or start feeding).
What do the top performing farmers do? Well they are all different, but the consistent thing is they PLAN, EXECUTE AND MONITOR better than most.
The biggest drivers of a breeding unit is fecundity and lamb growth rates. Hitting autumn targets, such as those listed above, is where it starts.
At the Veterinary Centre we thrive on seeing clients achieving. We're all about planning animal performance and hitting targets. Talk to us if you want to continue to be or become one of these "top operators'.