NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature Country Calendar: Winter -

MA­TURE EWES that weaned last year’s lambs in good time will have taken lit­tle harm from the dry sum­mer and au­tumn. They can sur­vive on dry feed as long as they have good wa­ter and shade.

But if ma­ture ewes are still skinny go­ing into win­ter, you prob­a­bly have too many sheep and they’ll need good qual­ity sup­ple­men­tary feed to build up their body con­di­tion be­fore lamb­ing, oth­er­wise ex­pect lamb­ing prob­lems and ewe deaths from meta­bolic dis­eases like milk fever and sleepy sick­ness.

Hoggets and late-born lambs suf­fer most, as they need to keep grow­ing or they end up be­ing per­ma­nently stunted adults. If they are small, the best pol­icy could be to get rid of the lot as they’ll never make de­cent sheep and will cost you money all through their lives.

If any hoggets were big enough to take the ram (at a min­i­mum weight of 45kg), they’ll need ex­tra care over win­ter if feed is short. They will cer­tainly need con­cen­trate feed to keep them grow­ing as they are pri­or­ity stock for the next two sea­sons.

If you have to feed con­cen­trates (which are ex­pen­sive) to sheep, make sure they are fed in troughs with plenty of space for all to get a fair share and there is no waste. Whole bar­ley and oats are best crushed be­fore feed­ing. Never feed wheat to sheep.

To­day’s high-fer­til­ity ewes are bred to carry mul­ti­ple lambs so must never be al­lowed to lose body con­di­tion. You need to keep check­ing reg­u­larly us­ing the con­di­tion scor­ing guide and get hands-on with your checks as wool hides a lot.

Some ewes are win­ter shorn and your shearer will let you know if they are right to shear - wool must be a min­i­mum of 100mm to sell. It’s of­ten eas­ier to let the shearer take the wool to build into a de­cent lot, and he/she can pre­pare it prop­erly for sale. De­spite the low price, it still pays to pre­pare wool prop­erly, and all shorn ewes need good feed and shel­ter for a cou­ple of days af­ter shear­ing.

Ewes should not need drench­ing, de­spite all the ad­ver­tis­ing hype to do so. Their nat­u­ral im­mu­nity should be able to han­dle any in­ter­nal par­a­sites. The ads never tell you to base drench­ing on a Fae­cal Egg Count (FEC) and vet ad­vice about the best drench for your farm, where the worms may have de­vel­oped re­sis­tance to cer­tain chem­i­cal fam­i­lies. Even if they have a FEC over 500eggs/g of fae­ces if they are thriv­ing, it can be best to avoid drench­ing them. Drench re­sis­tance is now more wide­spread than is re­alised and a farm with to­tal drench re­sis­tance can’t run sheep or goats.

If any ewes are not thriv­ing, check their teeth as grass length will be short this win­ter and they’ll be strug­gling to get enough feed. A ma­ture ewe

needs 1kg Dm/day, and they’ll be graz­ing low and eat­ing a lot of soil, caus­ing teeth wear.

If your rams were har­nessed, you‘ll have a good idea of which ewes will lamb first, so they can get some pri­or­ity con­cen­trate feed for the four weeks be­fore lamb­ing. Late lamb­ing ewes need lower pri­or­ity and any ewes that didn’t cy­cle could be cashed in and not win­tered.

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