Updated app to assist ewes

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN sheep producers have been urged to download the new version of the Sheep Condition Scoring app to help monitor the condition of ewes in late pregnancy to optimise their survival.
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Updates to the Sheep Condition Scoring app can help farmers budget their feed better.

Staff writer

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) recently enhanced the app, which is a key tool to assist producers to ensure their ewes are condition score 3 by the start of lambing.

Department veterinary officer Danny Roberts said it was important to take every opportunity to monitor the wellbeing of pregnant ewes to ensure their energy intake was adequate during the last 50 days of pregnancy.

"Metabolic disturbance during this time can result in ewe mortalities from pregnancy toxaemia and/or hypocalcaemia, with twin bearing ewes more at risk than single bearing ewes," Dr Roberts said.

"The best protective measure against these risks is to maintain single bearing ewes above condition score 2.8 and twin bearing ewes above condition score 3 during this period," he said.

"The Sheep Condition Scoring app will help producers to track and record the condition of their ewes during pregnancy, so they can adjust their feed budget accordingly."

Ewe energy requirements increase slowly during early pregnancy and rapidly increase in the last 50 days before lambing.

Variable seasonal conditions across the agricultural region have created challenges in some districts in maintaining adequate feed and water for pregnant ewes, forcing affected producers to adjust supplementary feed budgets.

Dr Roberts said it was important to provide adequate supplementary feed and water to late pregnant ewes, irrespective of the seasonal conditions.

"Late pregnant ewes require good quality supplementary feed with at least 12 per cent protein and 10 megajoules of energy per kilogram," he said.

"If feeding cereal grains in the last 50 days of pregnancy, it is advisable to add 1.5% of finely ground limestone to increase calcium intake by ewes.

"In districts that received rain and germination has occurred, it is important not to overestimate the energy intake by late pregnant ewes from the early green feed on offer.

"It is advisable to maintain adequate supplementary feed until sufficient green feed-on-offer satisfies the ewes' energy requirements."

Pregnancy scanning provides an opportunity to condition score ewes and adjust ewe management, particularly for twin bearing ewes if there is a delayed break in the season.

"The best time to scan ewes for pregnancy is 90 days from the start of joining," Dr Roberts said.

"This is a good time to assess the condition score of a sample of 25 ewes per mob, using the Sheep Condition Scoring app," he said.

Further opportunities for condition scoring include when drenching ewes in April, undertaking flystrike control or when vaccinations are given.

It is best to avoid prolonged walking, handling or confinement of late pregnant ewes, as this can result in mortalities overnight or five days later due to metabolic disturbances.

With most seasonal climate outlooks indicating a neutral chance of normal rainfall in the next two months, management of late pregnant ewes will become critical over coming weeks.

Dr Roberts said it was important to manage any changes in feed or risks to animal health carefully to avoid any reduction in energy intake.

"While separating single and twin bearing ewes is preferable, if producers need to combine flocks, for whatever reason, it is best to do so before the final 50 days of pregnancy" he said.

"Sudden changes to the composition of supplementary feed, particularly transferring from low (lupin) to high starch content (barley) or varying the source of starch, can also lead to metabolic disturbances.

"Animal health conditions like a foot abscess, damage to the liver or kidney from a toxin, or insufficient trough space when using lick feeders can also temporarily affect feed intake."