Sheep producers have been reminded to monitor the condition score of their flock over coming months and to adjust feed requirements accordingly, as available pasture may not be adequate in some areas.
The delayed start to the season and reduced rainfall in south eastern and south coastal districts could have led to restricted pasture emergence, prompting the need for producers to review supplementary feed programs.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development veterinary officer Danny Roberts said it was imperative to condition score sheep by hand to get a good estimation of animals’ nutritional wellbeing.
Dr Roberts said it would be best to condition score at least 25 sheep in a flock and to ensure individual sheep were condition score 2 or more.
“It is important to physically assess the muscle and fat covering the animal’s backbone to verify its condition,” he said.
“There will no doubt be variation within a flock, so it is best to aim for an average condition score of 2.5 – particularly for ewes to ensure they remain productive at mating.
“It’s also more cost effective to maintain sheep at condition score 2.5 than for the animals to lose condition and then try to regain it again before summer, through increased supplementary feeding.”
The department has several online resources on condition scoring and feed budgeting on its website, harnessed on its Season2018 webpage.
Many producers in areas experiencing below average rainfall are already supplementary feeding sheep.
“Green food on offer (FOO) is less than 500 kilograms per hectare in most areas, because germination has only just occurred in many locations,” Dr Roberts said.
“All producers would be wise to continually review their feed budget over coming months to determine their flock’s supplementary feeding requirements, as the season unfolds.”
While early weaning is an option to take nutritional pressure off ewes, Dr Roberts warned lambs must have access to high quality feed.
“Weaning 10 to 12 weeks after the start of lambing is a potential option to reduce the nutritional demand on ewes but the lambs must have access to sufficient green pasture or be fed a high energy-high protein supplement,” he said.
“Weaner paddocks should also have more than 1500kg/ha of FOO to maintain good growth rates and also ensure these paddocks have lower worm contamination of pasture.
“It is also important not to delay weaning past the recommended time of 14 weeks after the start of lambing.”
The department recommends that lambs receive their second vaccination injection for clostridial and cheesy gland and an effective drench at weaning.
A video on How to condition score sheep and an online Supplementary feeding calculator for pregnant and lactating ewes is available in the Season 2018 webpage, where updated FOO maps will also be located.
Jodie Thomson/Megan Broad, media liaison
+61 (0)8 9368 3937