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Preparing Ewes for Tupping Time

Tim Ryman |

After a long hot summer, our shepherds are busy body scoring the ewes ready for tupping.

The lambs have been weaned around mid-august and the ewes have had a busy summer looking after and feeding their lambs. Combined with the exceptionally dry summer here in UK affecting the quality of the pasture, they may have lost some condition, so it’s important to increase their condition for tupping to ensure the best possible lamb percentages for next spring.

Ewes in poor condition or on poor quality forage can reabsorb a lamb, so now is the critical window of time to build them up before they go to the tup.

Condition scoring is done by running the ewes through the race and body scoring them individually. The scored ewes are then put into groups determined by their condition score to ensure those ewes who score under 3 are given extra forage to build them up from those ewes who score higher.

Any ewes that are over fat can be kept on ordinary forage. This will even up the body condition of the entire flock to ensure the greatest lambing rate come Spring. The average ideal weight of the ewe at tupping time is around 70kgs, with a condition score of around 3, depending on the breed of the ewe.

For April lambing, the rams go out early in November, which provides a window of around 6 weeks to build the ewes body condition up. It’s important to find out if the sheep on your farm or small holding are deficient in any particular minerals.

If they are, a bolus of nutrients can be given (such as selenium and cobalt) that can make a big difference in improving metabolism and can improve the ewes building condition during this time.

Usually 2 bolus’s are given per year – once in September and again in February. Alternatively, mineral blocks can be provided in situ. Dagging or tailing of the ewes before tupping with shears is essential to remove dirty wool to ensure infections are not passed onto the ram. A range of shears both mains powered and cordless can be found on our website.

The health and condition of the ram must be optimal before he is introduced to the ewes to ensure he is of a good body weight and good feet! Rams may lose condition during tupping as they work hard to service the larger, commercial flocks of around 50-70 ewes each.

During tupping, it’s important to regularly check the raddle harness to ensure a good fit. Each week, the wax or paint block needs to be changed to a darker colour. As the ram may lose condition, the raddle may not work as effectively to identify the date of conception for the individual ewe. This can lead to problems when the ewe needs to be brought inside for lambing.

Ewes come into season for 30 hours every 17 days and the ram can detect the hormonal changes of oestrus in the ewes using the Jacobson’s organ in his olfactory senses.

Ewes will also seek out the ram for tupping. Once the ewe has been tupped, she will lose interest in the ram and so the darkest colour she has on her fleece determines when the ram has successfully serviced the ewe.

Usually ewes are brought into the lambing pens approximately 3 weeks before their due date to ensure their diet is altered to support gestation and to help provide healthy lambs.

So, the knowledge of the conception date for each ewe is particularly useful if the lambing shed has limited space, so ensuring that this is all well documented should be a vital part of the entire tupping process.

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