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Pregnancy scanning for multiples every year is strongly encouraged and should be seen as an investment rather than a cost. The benefits include:
Allows culling of empties, and allocation of resources for single and twin-bearing ewes
Allows monitoring of ram performance, and early identification of problems
Better feeding of twin-bearing ewes to reduce losses from metabolic diseases
Avoid over-feeding of single-bearing ewes
Determine early and late-lambing ewes for management and selection.
Planning for twins, earlies and lates
Scanning and separating ewes based on condition score and pregnancy or lambing status enables better allocation of paddocks and pasture to sheep. It is more efficient to run 3-5 year old ewes together and draft on ewe condition and pregnancy status than age groups.
Ewes that are empty at scanning need to be marked and drafted off. These ewes are not productive and a decision needs to be made as to whether to keep them for next joining or sell them. Ewes that fail to get in lamb for 2 years in a row should be culled. Dry ewes generally have good immunity to worms, so if they are kept they can be left un-drenched and run with lamb mobs to provide ‘refugia’.
Managing ewes during pregnancy
Ewe condition score targets need to be maintained. When BCS cannot be increased by grazing management in late pregnancy, supplementary feed should be used. Get them at their BCS targets (see Nutrition and Body Condition Score section) then draft out smaller ones and provide them with nutrition to bring up to condition targets. Ewes approaching lambing lose their resistance to internal parasites, leading to increased number of worms surviving in their gut as well as higher number of eggs produced per worm.
Four weeks before lambing, draft out twins and lates, allocate to lambing paddocks. Match expected lamb numbers to paddocks, i.e. put ‘early twins’ in the best paddocks, ‘late twins’ in the second best, ‘early singles’ next, then leave the poorest paddocks for the late single-bearing ewes.
Managing lactating ewes
Maintaining ewe condition through the lactation period is essential to ensure high quality and quantity milk is available for lambs. As peak milk consumption occurs about 3 weeks into lambing, udders should be assessed for mastitis and treated accordingly. Additionally, increased parasitic challenge during the lactation period means that WEC should be conducted prior to management milestones such as lamb marking, and worming strategies should be practiced to minimise pasture contamination. Note that lambs born to ewes that have poor lactation will eat pasture earlier and therefore have higher worm burdens.
Smart use of labour
Both lamb marking and pregnancy scanning ewes can be combined with other tasks to minimise labour. For example, pregnancy scanning can occur at the same time as drenching, drafting of dry and twin bearing ewes, BCS and booster vaccines. Similarly, lamb marking may occur in conjunction with crutching ewes, marking dry and cull ewes, vaccination and ear tagging.