Optimising ewe fertility pre tupping is crucial as it sets the foundation for a profitable flock and can make a significant difference in the number of lambs for market.
Focusing on good management and optimum nutrition in the pre-tupping period and during early pregnancy is therefore a must, with the main objectives being; to ensure ewes are in the right body condition score (BCS) , to maximise ovulation and conception rates, and to reduce embryonic loss.
In this blog, we discuss some of the practical ways you can support ewe fertility around the critical tupping period.
Ewes with impaired health, poor body condition or with a history of reproductive problems, should not be retained for breeding. This includes ewes with udder conditions, or that have previously suffered problems such as abortions, ring worm, prolapse, difficult lambing and poor mothering instinct. Equally, a zero-tolerance policy on lameness should be considered.
While it can be tempting to keep ewes that fall into this bracket, particularly when replacement costs are high, reproductive performance is likely to be poor and keeping them could lead to significant costs in the long-run.
Ensuring ewes are in good health at tupping and throughout pregnancy is therefore key and vaccinations are an important component of disease prevention. 4-6 weeks before tupping can prove a beneficial timing for administering some vaccines and will protect ewes during pregnancy.
All at risk ewes should also have protection from parasitic liver fluke and younger ewes, who have not yet developed full immunity to worms, may also need to be dosed with a suitable anthelmintic.
Body Condition Score (BCS)
Body condition score (BCS) at tupping has a major impact on scanning percentage and the number of lambs produced. The target BCS is 3.5 for lowland ewes and 2.5 for hill ewes. BCS takes time to adjust so ewes should be assessed 10-12 weeks pre mating to allow for any changes required, and nutrition should be considered accordingly.
Rising plane of nutrition
Achieving the right balance of nutrition at this time can help to promote ovulation, reduces embryo reabsorption and can be a good opportunity to boost lambing percentages.
During this period, the energy requirement doubles, so the nutrients ewes receive should be steadily increasing for at least four to six weeks prior to tupping and then for another three weeks after.
Nutrition can be increased and improved either with forage or with supplementation. Putting ewes on good pasture a few weeks before tupping, also known as flushing, will increase the number of eggs released and improve the chances of conception at first service.
Trace elements requirements at tupping
Consideration should also be given to trace element and vitamin status, especially if your farm has a known deficiency. While only required is small quantities, these micronutrients can make a significant difference to performance and ewe fertility. Manganese and iodine in particular support conception and help to support the immune system.
Buckets are a popular option to provide enhanced nutrition pre tupping and can include trace elements and vitamins. Other options for trace element and vitamin supplementation include rumen boluses, oral drenches or injections.
The Tupping Tubby® is the ideal solution for ewes in the run up to and during tupping as it provides optimal mineral and energy supplementation.
It contains a unique ingredient, Acetona, which helps to improve liver function, stimulates liver glucose production and helps the ewe utilise her own fat reserves. It also contains high sugars, phosphorus and trace elements which boost energy.
The seaweed-based formulation of the Tubby® also means it is consumed as and when the ewe needs it. Intakes of Tubby® buckets are typically lower than highly molassed buckets and can provide a cost-effective and practical option for farmers during this key period.
The Tupping Tubby® is suitable for all breeding sheep but should be fed at least three weeks before the ram is introduced and then for another three weeks after. Visit our mineral clinic or talk to one of our experts for more advice