Sheep - Things to do this Month - October

SHEEP – for a March/April lambing flock:

Adjust the following dates for earlier/later lambing flocks, and see last month’s guidance for later lambing flocks.

  • ram-in-harnessIf you’re new to sheep breeding, or need to brush up any aspects of your skills, get hold of your very own copy of The Breeding Flock - Programme Three in our “Sheep on Your Smallholding” series of DVDs.
  • Plan for the ram joins the ewes on 5th November, and lambing will begin on 1st April – with a few days latitude either side!
  • If you’re planning to use a ‘teaser’ ram to synchronise oestrus in the ewes, he should join the ewes 14 days before the sire ram is introduced; (a ‘teaser’ is a vasectomised ram, that will stimulate the ewes to become receptive to the ram at the same time, thus producing a tight lambing 5 months later).
  • Flushing the ewes on your best pasture six weeks before they’re due to go to the ram will promote fertility and a good crop of lambs.
  • If you’ve had poor lambing results in the past, consider using a Vitamin and Trace Element drench or bolus for breeding ewes and rams 4-weeks pre-tupping to improve conception rates and achieve a tight lambing period. Ideally, you should carry out forage, soil or blood analysis before giving any supplementation to identify specific needs.
  • Make sure the ram is fit and well, and in good condition (BCS4) well before he joins the ewes, and carry out a full ram ‘MOT’ – watch Adam Henson demonstrate this on Programme 3 of “Sheep on Your Smallholding”
  • To ensure your ram is fit for tupping, put him onto good grazing at least 6 weeks prior to joining the ewes. DON’T leave it until the week before he’s due to join the ewes and try to build him up with concentrates – this can lead to serious problems.
  • Before they join the ram, check ewes’ condition, teeth, feet and udders, and crutch if they carry a heavy fleece – trim wool from their behinds and bellies so as not to impede the ram; this also keeps the ewes cleaner for hygienic lambing
  • A couple of days before the start of tupping, fit the raddle harness to the ram(s) then turn the ram in with the ewes 147 days (roughly 5 months) before your planned lambing date.
  • Check the ewes and rams at least daily, but disturb them as little as possible at this time.
  • Be vigilant for Liver Fluke (fascioliasis), especially if your sheep graze wet pastures – at this time of year you are likely to encounter the acute stage of Liver Fluke. Any sudden loss of condition or unexplained death should be investigated. Signs of sub-acute disease include lethargy, anaemia (identified by pale mucous membranes), poor body condition, poor fleece quality and reduced grazing. Chronic fascioliasis can be detected in faecal samples; acute and sub-acute disease is diagnosed though blood samples that will show raised liver enzymes, and should be treated strategically in line with your Flock Health Plan. If sheep graze wet pastures, consider dosing, and choose your drench carefully to make sure it is effective against the early immature fluke stage of the disease. For a complete explanation of the complex lifecycle and treatment of this disease, (click here) to watch a video presented by Michaela Strachan.
  • Scab is an increasing problem in many areas (particularly Scotland and northern counties) and is a serious disease; if you have itchy sheep and patches of rubbed fleece, suspect scab and ask your vet to carry out a skin scrape
  • Hopefully, most of this year’s lambs will be away by now – if you have any that are a bit behind and are running short of grazing, consider either selling them at market as ‘stores’ to farmers who have sufficient grass to over-winter them, or alternatively, produce them slowly as ‘hogget’ for next spring.
  • Catch up on two vital aspects of sheep breeding: Preparation for Tupping Time, and Selecting For Sound Feet, written by Chris Lewis and Agnes Winter, two of the most respected specialist sheep vets in the UK.
  • And finally, If you’re as busy (or forgetful!) as I always seem to be, treat yourself to one of our brilliant little Breeding Flock Planners – just set your target lambing date, and it will display dates for all the flock management tasks, from flushing to weaning, for the rest of the year!