Cold, wet, winter weather creates extra challenges for sheep, particularly lambing ewes, according to Northern Tablelands Local Land Services District Vet, Andrew Biddle, who says extra care with animal welfare over the winter will pay big dividends in farm profits.
“With lamb prices so high, it makes sense to do everything possible to maximise lambing percentages and survival,” said Andrew.
“Winter shearing puts significant stress on sheep, particularly ewes in lamb, and they will have additional nutrition requirements fresh off shears, to maintain their body temperature.”
“Sheep with good fat reserves can cope with cold weather much better than sheep in marginal condition, or young weaners which tend to be less robust than mature stock. Ideally planning will have been in place to ensure stock are in medium score condition when they arrive at the shed.”
“When sheep are freshly shorn, it’s imperative to keep an eye on sheep graziers’ warnings about the weather. Wet and windy weather off shears can be very hard on stock, so providing sheltered paddocks or shedding if practical, can significantly reduce stock losses.”
“Providing hay will also make a big difference, helping to warm sheep from the inside out, as the bacteria in the rumen that break down roughage create heat.”
“Pregnant animals grazing short green feed are often at risk of metabolic problems such as ketosis, hypocalcaemia and grass tetany. Supplementary roughage can prevent unnecessary deaths and the resulting losses in potential profit.”
“The benefits of good planning and supplementary feed to keep ewes in satisfactory body condition will flow through from shearing to lambing, then on to higher survival rates and growth in lambs after marking.”