Time for tupping
With November upon us, the time is here to put your tups to work! It can be a careful balancing act deciding when to mate ewes in order to fully utilise your farms environment for lambing. Everyone has a slightly different set up so here are some helpful points to think about.
Things to plan:
- The average sheep gestation is 5 months or 147 days but can range from 144-152 days. The ideal time for lambs to be born is from April to May. Pre-planning tupping can help you maximise your available grazing once lambs are born.
- Sheep are ‘short-day’ breeders, meaning their hormones are ready for mating when the day length reduces. There are a few breed exceptions to this rule.
- Nutritional flushing of your ewes can help improve fertility, ready for the ram going in.
- Consider if you will be adding in a teaser ram or artificially synchronising your ewes. These manipulations of the ewe’s hormone cycle can help to tighten your lambing period. Very useful if you have a fixed time scale within which to work.
- Check your fencing for your stock. Keeping your ram in with his ewes is important for him to focus on the job.
- A ram will need about 6 weeks to service all of his ewes which is hard work for him. To keep ram vigour, rotation of tups after a few weeks is advised. This can help improve fertility and lambing numbers.
- Ensure your ram has had his annual MOT. In order to mate ewes efficiently and well your ram should not be lame or have any underlying illness. He will need to have had a parasite check/worm egg count to know if worming is required to help keep his body condition just right.
- Any stressors of handling for worming/vaccination/feet checks should be done at least 2-4weeks prior to putting him in with the ewes.
- Changing your raddle colour with the ewes’ cycle length can be helpful to know who is due to lamb when post-mating.
- Ensure your rams have up to date Clostridial vaccine cover for the tupping season.
Early pregnancy: Interfere as little as possible through the mating and early weeks of gestation. Stressful conditions can cause ewes to reabsorb embryos and reduce the number of lambs born in the spring.
Minimise stress: Try to achieve routine jobs prior to tupping, such as treating lame sheep, vaccinations, worming, mineral supplementation through bolusing or changing group structures.
Grazing: Keep grass and feed supplies consistent in early gestation to reduce stress on the ewes.
Mid-pregnancy: This is a time for getting the nutritional balance just right. Lowland ewes who were in good body condition prior to tupping can tolerate losing up to half a body condition score during this time. This equates to a 4.5KG for a 70KG ewe. Any more than this and ewes and their pregnancies may suffer.
Trace elements: Various trace elements have a big influence on fertility and lamb performance. Colbalt, copper and selenium which are found in the natural environment are of particular importance. Blood testing ewe groups with poor body condition can help identify any deficiencies. Getting your vet to take bloods from a small sample group within your larger groups, even if they are healthy can help give a representation of trace minerals and energy balance. This information may then assist with decisions to supplement groups if required, avoiding potential problems in the future.
Contact our team at Hammond Vets for any advice on tupping and the up and coming lambing season. We are here to help you improve your flock health and productivity.
Hammond Vets Team