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Feeding Ewes for Pregnancy

Managing ewes for joining

Setting the time of joining for lambing is an important on-farm management decision. Where practical, aim to lamb about three to four months before the end of the growing season for a Merino enterprise. In a prime lamb enterprise, a decision based on the most profitable compromise between ewes joined per hectare, the likely reproduction rate and market price must be made.

Key points:

  • The higher the condition of the ewe at joining, the higher the potential number of lambs and the lower the number of dry ewes.
  • Ewes joined in the spontaneous breeding season have a greater chance of falling pregnant.
  • It is cheaper to maintain ewe condition from weaning rather than let the ewes’ condition drop and then feed them supplements in the lead up to joining.


Managing ewes in late pregnancy

Ewe condition in late pregnancy has a major influence on the growth of the foetus which has a significant impact on birth weight and therefore survival. There are substantial penalties for not having ewes in good condition by lambing. Ewes that are below optimal condition at lambing may have a significant cost on the sheep enterprise through decreased lamb survival and progeny production. In wool flocks, poor ewe nutrition in late pregnancy influences secondary wool follicle development which directly influences the density and fineness of the fleece of the progeny.

Key Points:

  • Ewe condition in late pregnancy affects lamb birth weight and therefore survival.
  • Lambs born from ewes with poor condition in late pregnancy will have lower production for life.
  • Twin lambs are very vulnerable to poor ewe nutrition and low survival rates will occur particularly if lambing weather is poor or low feed is available to the ewe at lambing.
  • Ewe mortality is affected by low nutrition in the lead up to lambing and individuals should not be below condition score 2 for lambing.


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