Flock conditioning

Baymule

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Plant a mix of clovers and rye grass for early spring growth. here in east Texas, I plant in September. The clovers improve the soil by fixing nitrogen in the root nodules. The rye grass helps by giving the sheep grass to eat that doesn't cause bloat. When you turn them out on the clovers, feed with hay first and limit grazing to 1 hour. Bring back to the lot and offer free choice baking soda to deter bloat. I graze my sheep on the clover/rye grass mix in the spring, then in May we mow it to let the Bermuda grass come through. The clovers lay a good layer of humus on the soil.

We just cleared several acres that we will be trying to get grass established on, so I feel your pain. LOL What grasses grow well in your area? Consult with your local extension office.
 

Mini Horses

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You're on a roll!! :thumbsup


Extra feed/hay now (do not overdue the concentrates...richer hay will be better) and improved pastures in the future. Hey, we have pretty much ALL been there and in your position! It's workable and you know to do it. Great pastures take time and care. It will come.

I use a good grass hay mix. Then, I buy some beautiful (!!!) alfalfa hay, young cut stuff, and use that for the bred & lactating does, as a supplement to their other hays. The non bred ones are not given this so long as they are doing well on all else. Fortunately I do have a good amount of decent pasture grasses, mixed forages, etc. I do not use any chemicals, so goats love to do my "weeding" for me. :D Yep, I have dandelion, plantain and such in the fields. Various shrubs and vines...the goats keep them under control but, pasture rotation keeps them available.

In the Fall I buy several bags of the "food plot" deer seed you see in the feed stores (they discount them) and toss that out just before a rain (tends to get it into the ground). Some will start up, some will lay there and start up in the Spring. Most has clovers, chicory, Australian peas, grazing alfalfa, some grasses, etc. It makes a nice pasture addition.
 

Arnaki

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I'm in Wales and my fields are poor in comparison with my neighbour as no fertiliser has gone on them for some years. Grass grows well in our murky weather....one of the few advantages!

Post some pics of your sheep, Arnaki. What breed do you have?

A lot of factors determine what Body Condition Score ewes will be in at this time of year. Some of them which come to mind...... When did your ewes lamb? (Have they had time to regain their weight?).Were your ewes supplemented with concentrate in the pre-lambing and post lambing periods? I supplement for 4 weeks before lambing to 6 weeks after. The number of lambs and the size of those lambs will affect ewe weight as will the length of time until lambs were weaned. The condition and amount of the available grazing, weather, rainfall etc. all pay major parts. Worms, fluke and ectoparasites all affect ewe condition. There are many, many more!

The sheep in my pic. are mainly Beulah Speckle Faced, a locally developed, medium-sized hardy hill sheep who gain weight easily. So breed of sheep is another important factor.

Over here we examine sheep about now to determine what, if anything, needs to be done for the ewes to be in optimal condition for tupping in mid to late October. Ideal BCS 3.0-4.0. Anybody 2.5 or less will get some supplemental feeding (referred to as 'flushing') to encourage ovulation. The biggest improvement in lambing percentage will be seen in those ewes who's body condition is improved from 2.0 or below to over 2.5 or above.....so not a vast amount of weight gain to achieve a much better lambing percentage, and usually easily achievable.

I'm not quite sure why my girls are looking so plump right now, but very few need any special preparation for tupping.
We have registered Katahdins. I will have to get some recent pictures. I'm thinking we are going to supplement with grain( corn, oats, and vitamins/mineral ) and increase them slowly to a lb each per day until I can get them back up to 3-3.5. And we will continue to give them alfalfa pellets.

It's only been a couple months since we weaned the ram lambs and the momma's weaned the ewe lambs themselves about a month ago.
 

Arnaki

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You're on a roll!! :thumbsup


Extra feed/hay now (do not overdue the concentrates...richer hay will be better) and improved pastures in the future. Hey, we have pretty much ALL been there and in your position! It's workable and you know to do it. Great pastures take time and care. It will come.

I use a good grass hay mix. Then, I buy some beautiful (!!!) alfalfa hay, young cut stuff, and use that for the bred & lactating does, as a supplement to their other hays. The non bred ones are not given this so long as they are doing well on all else. Fortunately I do have a good amount of decent pasture grasses, mixed forages, etc. I do not use any chemicals, so goats love to do my "weeding" for me. :D Yep, I have dandelion, plantain and such in the fields. Various shrubs and vines...the goats keep them under control but, pasture rotation keeps them available.

In the Fall I buy several bags of the "food plot" deer seed you see in the feed stores (they discount them) and toss that out just before a rain (tends to get it into the ground). Some will start up, some will lay there and start up in the Spring. Most has clovers, chicory, Australian peas, grazing alfalfa, some grasses, etc. It makes a nice pasture addition.

What do you use in your pasture mix? First seeding I used rye grass. Then went over with an orchard, bluegrass, clover, feature mix. Bluegrass was a bust but everything else came up great.....till the weeds and scrub took over. The deer plot seed is an awesome idea too. We are having a guy come and bulldoze some stumps out so I can get the brush hog thru. Did I say I hate stumps
Do you spread your manure on your fields to fertilize? Was going to spread mine on the field I'm having cleared after I put down the seed. Has the hay and straw mixed in so hoping it will help hold my seed too. Someone told me they plant turnips and the sheep love them...better them than me I can't find cow peas here in SE Ohio.

Part of my pasture issue is we don't have enough sheep to keep it eaten down yet and we haven't cross fenced yet due to cost. I need to find a friend with about 50 goats that wants to pasture them for a few weeks while they clean out their barns
 

Arnaki

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Plant a mix of clovers and rye grass for early spring growth. here in east Texas, I plant in September. The clovers improve the soil by fixing nitrogen in the root nodules. The rye grass helps by giving the sheep grass to eat that doesn't cause bloat. When you turn them out on the clovers, feed with hay first and limit grazing to 1 hour. Bring back to the lot and offer free choice baking soda to deter bloat. I graze my sheep on the clover/rye grass mix in the spring, then in May we mow it to let the Bermuda grass come through. The clovers lay a good layer of humus on the soil.

We just cleared several acres that we will be trying to get grass established on, so I feel your pain. LOL What grasses grow well in your area? Consult with your local extension office.
The rye and clover I planted first go round did great. I planted in end sept first October. I went back next year with orchard, bluegrass, festue, clover, and forbs. All did great except the bluegrass. The spring was great but very wet so couldn't turn them out everyday. Don't have enough sheep to eat it all and not cross fenced yet(cost) so the weeds and scrub took over. Have a guy coming to take up stumps so I can get a brush hog in.
 

Mini Horses

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do you have a way to mow it? That will be necessary to keep the weeds from taking over. Grasses will crowd out some things but not all. Your extension agent can tell you what will grow best in your area. Here I have Bermuda, orchard, crabgrass, duckgrass, some fescue (endophyte free), plus …? and all manner of forbs. While sheep will forage, they don't seem to be as enthusiastic about it as goats. :D Mine like turnips -- both the bulb and leaves. My chickens almost fought over the bulb part. I was shocked. I do cast out the seven top variety which makes more top than tap root...feed store 70% off stuff.

How much acreage do you have? Here I have 15 acres. This is shared with 12 mini horses, & 18 goats of large sized breeds. I STILL have to cut it!! No, don't spread the manure -- they do. I rotate pastures. When I clean sheds/barns/coops, etc. most goes to whatever garden area I select (& friends for their gardens), by fruit trees, etc. Yes, some years I use a portion of one of the smaller fields for some crops that need room....then, cut it down, throw in a cover crop of forageable -- say winter wheat, then reseed early Spring for improved pasture. Cuts a couple acres off rotation for a year but :idunnodidn't need it and the area become better grass later. Once established and regularly cut, grass becomes unreal.
 

Beekissed

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Very much depends on what your pasture is like. Mine get nothing but pasture and treats at this time and they are mainly 3.5 to 4 with their lambs still in with them (ram lambs due to be removed this week). This is what they and their pasture look like at present.

View attachment 65403View attachment 65407 View attachment 65406

Wormed on results of faecal egg count, flukicide as advised, Selenium/cobalt/B12 drench about every 6 weeks.

They all shoot down to the fence in the hope I'm bringing them more treats.

Total of about 130 animals with gates open so they can make their way into two other fields with similar type of grazing.
Must be excellent pasture...those sheep look GREAT! Lovely each and every one! Does my heart good to see such beautiful sheep. :love
 

Ridgetop

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First, your sheep need more nutritious groceries. Congratulations though on recognizing of their condition scores! Many first timers don't realize how important that is. You are also up on their worming - another plus for you. :highfive: Now that you know you have a feeding problem you can easily correct it. Since you will need time to improve your pastures ( a couple of years) I suggest you continue working on pasture improvement but for now you need improve the protein level of the feed you are giving them.

they need more groceries if they are truly at the body score you say. Poor pasture offers little nutrition, just busy work. Grass hay -- that can be less than optimal unless tested and you know how good it is. It should be available 24/7 right now. One cup of alfalfa is not much....especially consider some will eat more, others get nothing.
Grass hay is lower in protein than alfalfa and most of the clovers. Most grass hay averages between 8% to 14% protein with most of it in the low area. Good alfalfa averages 17-21% protein depending on quality. The clovers come in around 14-17%. Total TDN averages the same among most grasses and legumes. This is a large gap in protein level (nutrition) which must be made up in supplemental feed. Alfalfa pellets are not going to keep the rumens working so I would not increase that amount but instead feed alfalfa hay. The 1 cup of pellets can be used to bring them into the night fold or barn but is not enough to do much for body condition.

Can you obtain good alfalfa in your area? I suggest you switch to alfalfa first before investing in more costly supplemental grain feeds. That will bring their protein intake up. First cuttings have the highest protein but dairies usually have the first cutting under contract. Second cutting is almost as high and we used to contract several fields of second cutting when we had our dairy goat herd. We used to have a very large herd of dairy milkers and were on milk test so DH has become something of a perfectionist when it comes to hay quality.

If you cannot get good alfalfa, then I suggest you buy a bagged feed made specially for sheep. A "grower ration" will put on condition in conjunction with the grass hay for rumen activity. Just make sure you feed enough per ewe. With 18 ewes, I would use several feeding areas spaced out to make sure each one gets enough.

We are in so California and have arid clay soil - NO grass pasture. We have had drought for years until last winter when we got constant rain (like the whole country) and beautiful forage. Note that I say forage because we do not get grass pasture, just weeds and wild mustard. We do get beautiful alfalfa and have never fed anything else for 30 years.

We do not have Katahdins so I am not sure of their nutritional requirements. We have Dorpers (advertised by South African breeders to live on rocks and cactus) and they thrived on our forage this year. We had only 3 of 5 ewes lamb because we were transitioning from Dorsets (wooled)) to Dorpers. Since then we added another 8 Dorper ewes and a third ram. They have all done well on the forage plus about 1 lb rolled oats and corn at night. We didn't feed any hay for 6 months! Unheard of for us. The Dorsets needed a higher level of supplement to finish their lambs and I used a creep. However, the new Dorpers are much easier keepers and require less overall feed and supplements. I replaced the expensive bagged "grower ration" sheep feed with rolled barleycorn and they have done very well.

I do not use oats at all in my feeding program to increase condition. When the kids were in 4-H, and had a market animal gain too much too soon, we cut their feed with oats to halt weight gain. Oats put on hard flesh but not as much of it so don't use oats to increase condition in your ewes. Corn will fatten an animal, but you don't want to just put fat on. You want to put on flesh that will sustain a pregnancy and continue the ewe through her lactation.

Dairy animals that "put it all in the pail" are fed a grain ration with minerals pound for pound for the milk they give. Dairy animals also have different physical structures than meat animals with flat rib bones, and more pronounced hip bones, etc. A good dairy animal can look half starved and be in excellent condition! An experienced dairy person can pick out the unproductive animals in a dairy herd at a glance. Good meat producers are also identifiable through their structure.

Our ewes weaned at 4 months. Their lambs weighed about 100 lbs. The ewes' condition scores were about 3.0. I flushed them another month before putting in the ram. Now we are starting to feed alfalfa again as the forage has been eaten down. We don't use grass hay since it is more expensive here than alfalfa, and the alfalfa has higher protein needing less supplements. Our west coast hay is high in selenium so no need to supplement that mineral. I use a salt blck and have minerals that need to be cut with straight salt. Be careful of too much copper. Some minerals are advertised as "goat and sheep" minerals. Goats need a much higher level of copper than sheep can handle.

Continue to improve your pastures, but know the protein level of the hay you are using since some hay has very little nutritional value. You will need to understand the protein level in your hay and use supplements that will bring the total nutrient level of the combined feed to what your ewes need to keep their condition scores up.

Good luck with improving your pastures - it is never ending but will yield good results in the long run and be worth the effort.
The grass may be green, but that does not mean it is nutritious enough to support a producing/lactating ewe. Improving your feeding plan will do it for you.
 
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