Beef and Sheep Management Notes – November
November 1, 2020
Assessing body condition
Body condition is scored on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0, with 1.0 being emaciated and 5.0 obese. One body condition score (BCS) in a suckler cow equates to 70-90 kg of live weight. The target BCS for spring calving suckler cows is 3.0 at weaning
(mid-pregnancy), 2.5 at calving and at least 2.0 at mating. Body condition scores of 3.0-3.5 may be more common this year at housing where cows had access to good supplies of quality grass during the grazing season.
Pen suckler cows according to BCS and feed accordingly. Silage analysis is useful for determining the quality of different silages on the farm. It allows quality silage to be fed to priority stock such as thin cows. Allow excessively thin cows unrestricted access to moderate to good quality silage. Cows in good body condition can be offered a restricted allocation of silage to either reduce or maintain body condition. Unless silage is of poor quality, allowing unrestricted access will result in cows putting on more condition. This may increase the incidence of calving difficulty, which in turn may negatively affect subsequent fertility and calving interval. Restricted and supplementary feeding need to be carried out in good time to ensure all cows are at their target BCS six to eight weeks before calving. Underfeeding in the last six to eight weeks of pregnancy will lead to increased incidences of weak calves at birth and cows with poor colostrum quality and quantity. Overfeeding in this same period increases the risk of heavier calf birth weight and a higher level of calving difficulty.
Parasite control in sheep
Mature ewes should have a good resistance to stomach worms. Some farmers dose ewes for these worms just once a year and only dose young ewes or those in poorer body condition. Strategically avoiding the treatment of sheep which don’t require it reduces the threat of a population of worms developing which are resistant to a particular type of wormer. As ewes do not develop resistance to liver fluke, dosing for fluke using a suitable product needs to be considered. Multiplication of the intermediate host, the mud snail is helped by wet weather. There are two forms of liver fluke; acute and chronic. Acute fluke affects sheep, mainly in autumn, while chronic fluke affects both sheep and cattle. Acute liver fluke disease is caused by the migration of a large number of immature flukes through the liver. This can be severe on the animal and cause death. The chronic form can persist through the year but mainly occurs in winter and spring. It results in reduced thrive and in some cases animals can show swelling under the jaw. Talk to your vet about an appropriate fluke drenching programme. Ideally this should include the analysis of faecal samples initially to identify if treatment is required. Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) is an industry led initiative which promotes best practice in the control of parasites. It provides regular forecasts for the likelihood of infection during the year. For more information, please visit: www.scops.org.uk
Flock breeding season coming to an end
The tupping season will soon be coming to an end in most mid-season lambing flocks. Continue to monitor ewes closely for evidence of a high repeat rate as it will soon be too late to take any action. The use of a raddle on rams is the most effective way of identifying repeats. Keep a close eye on anything which can affect the rams tupping ability. Lameness is reported as being more of an issue in some flocks this year which could pose a threat. Where a ram lamb is being used, pay particular attention. Ideally, ram lambs will have been used on mature ewes and a mature ram mated to ewe lambs. When rams are finally taken out ram lambs and thin rams in particular may need some preferential treatment.
For information and guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic please refer to: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/landing-pages/daera-and-covid-19