Pregnancy scan results prove positive

Last updated 10:03 02/07/2013

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Pregnancy scanning results on early lambing ewes on Waikato sheep farms are proving to be on a par or slightly back from last season.

The ewe flocks had recovered from the drought and were in reasonable condition with lambing beginning in parts ntsGonnteof  Northern Waikato at the end of this month.

But there was a larger number of lighter conditioned ewes as a result of the drought, Waikato Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Chris Irons said.

Most farmers would know potentially how many lambs they could have, but the success of lambing could come down to feed availability for the ewes and the weather between now and October.

‘‘They are reasonably comfortable where they are at so long as they don’t get too much nasty weather,’’ Irons said.

The reasonable scanning result was due to ewes being in good condition when they went to the ram.

‘‘It wasn’t until late February that it started going dry. The ewes were still in good nick when the rams were going out and they cycled well.’’

Later lambing ewes from flocks in South Waikato and King Country had a bigger percentage drop.

‘‘I have heard a couple of people say that lambing percentages were down 5-10 per cent,’’ he said.

This was not unexpected because these farmers put their rams out in late March and early April when there was less feed available.

Another risk was that lighter conditioned ewes pregnant with multiple lambs would bear small, weak lambs that would be unable to stand up and suckle straight after birth, cutting their survival chances.

‘‘Most people have admitted that they  have a slightly bigger tail in their ewes so instead of 5 per cent lighter ones, they might be 10 per cent,’’ Irons said.

‘‘The majority of ewes are fine, but there are a few more lighter ones than we would like and that’s to be expected from the dry.’’

King country sheep farmer Martin Coup scanned his early lambing ewes last week and was surprised how well they held up.

‘‘Normally my older ewes do about 178 per cent scanning, and this year they did 171 per cent. That’s not bad.’’

Coup had heard similar reports around the country that scanning on early ewes was a lot higher than many had predicted.

‘‘It surprised me, I thought it would be back a lot more than what it is.’’

He predicted scanning percentages to fall as more later lambing ewes that bore the effects of the drought are scanned.

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Coup was condition scoring all of his ewes to identify the lighter sheep and was giving these ewes preferential feeding.

So far he had identified about 15 per cent that fell into that lighter category. By doing so, it would help increase the lamb survival of lighter ewes.

‘‘There are huge gains to be made by doing that with lamb survival.’’

Lambing for his flock of terminal ewes starts on August 20 and on September 10 for his maternal ewes. His hoggets begin lambing a few weeks later.

Coup was feeling comfortable because his pastures had recovered quickly from the drought once the rain came.

Other farmers were in a similar position while there were some that were short of feed, he said.

- Fairfax Media

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