VICTORIAN sheep producers have been urged to closely monitor ewe condition scores and flock worm levels leading up to joining this year.
Livestock Logic senior sheep consultant Darren Gordon said ewes in many flocks were losing condition score quickly at the moment due to poor pasture quality conditions.
“It’s a big sleeper.”
Mr Gordon said if managers of flocks aiming to join ewes from mid-January to mid-March have not been monitoring their stock, but relying on the big spring, they would find their ewes’ condition will be lighter than this time last year.
The advice was particularly relevant for producers who were not measuring the condition score of their ewes, he said.
“If you don’t measure something, how do you manage it?”
“So there is a lot of 40 percent digestibility pasture out there, which only meets about half the requirements of sheep.”
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Mr Gordon said there were probably a lot of sheep which were condition score 2.5-2.6, rather than condition score 3, potentially costing them 10-15pc in conception rate.
He said it would require a lot of supplementary feed to lift condition scores and in most years this is uneconomical.
“It is far easier to maintain a sheep’s condition than to put weight on.”
Mr Gordon said sheep producers who had not been monitoring their flock’s condition score should assess their ewes and then seek advice on the best nutritional program to maximise conception, ewe health and lamb survival.
“Even people who have been monitoring condition score, their sheep are back 0.1-0.2 in condition score.”
Mr Gordon said in this year when ewes were likely to be lighter, pregnancy scanning became more important to identify twinning ewes and ensure they had adequate nutrition.
“I know scanning is important every year, but this year if sheep are back in condition, it’s going to be even more important.
Mr Gordon said recent worm egg counts in western Victoria also showed worm loads were potentially high in many flocks this year, which will have a negative impact on sheep condition.
Figures from Livestock Logic director Dr David Rendell showed that weaner worm egg count (WEC) levels tested in client flocks were three times higher this February than at the same time in the previous two years. WEC levels in rising two year-old maiden ewes were two times higher and WECs in mature sheep were 50pc higher.
“All this added up to more monitoring and drenching when required,” Mr Gordon said.