Rate her condition

Ridgetop

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First, condition does not mean that her belly will be swollen. Condition refers to the amount of fat covering over her ribs, spine, and bones. There are some very good articles on-line showing exactly what you want to feel when checking for condition. And exactly how and where to check. Feeling the ewe's ribs, spine. rump, and shoulders is the only way to check her condition. You want to feel some muscling and fat over the bones, but not too mch. You should be able to identify the spinal process even though it is covered in muscle and some fat, and just feel the ribs under the fat/muscle. If you can't identify that the bones are there, she is too high in condition. A ewe too high in condition may not take when she is bred, while a ewe too low in condition will have trouble producing good quality and quantity of eggs. Ideal condition to breed is 3.5.

If the sheep are on rough forage, they will have a larger belly since their rumens are working to capacity. But the hollow is not cause for worry. Since she is not pregnant she is not be filling out with lambs. An open ewe usually has small hollows right in front of her hips.

If this ewe is only 2 years old, and has only lambed once - raising one set of twins - why did you decide not to breed her this season? Unless she was much older, and had a hard time raising her last set of lambs, there is no need to skip a breeding season. Once livestock are in a breeding program, they should be kept producing unless there is a severe health reason to stop.
 

mystang89

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@Ridgetop Thanks much for the clear succinct advice. Perfect. On feeling her, everyone so far had been spot on. She's perfectly healthy. I didn't breed her last year out of an abundance of caution and a lack of knowledge, fearing that she wasn't in good shape to breed. She is definitely breeding this year!
 

Sheepshape

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She is definitely breeding this year!
Good call. Ewes often get way too fat if you don't breed them. My grass isn't growing well this year, but the ewes who didn't have lambs are already 'porky'.......can a ewe be 'PORKy'? One or two of them (not sheared yet, so difficult to be too accurate) appear to be fatter than I'd like them to be.....one even has the 'fat roll' just above her tail. These ewes are Beulah Speckled Face, a 'thrifty' hill breed which maintain their condition on pretty poor rations. They will need to be left on a pretty bare field for a month or two before tupping time.

That girl looks in peak condition.....
 

Ridgetop

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The 'thrifty" breeds are a little harder to get into breeding condition because they are such easy keepers. Standard breeds can be brought up in weight with extra grain but those thrifty breeds will put on weight so easily that they can get over conditioned.

After years of English breeds, then Dorsets (aso esy keepers) I now have Dorpers - which are "bred to live on rocks and cactus"! LOL I was worried about flushing them before breeding, however, the 2 yearling ewes weaned their single lambs in good condition so we did not flush them like we would have done with our old Dorsets, Suffolks, Hamps, etc. We put the 2 ewes and a virgin yearling ewe into a small field with heavy forage with the ram wearing his tupping harness. The field had lots of forage and we simply continued the small amounts of rolled barleycorn we had been feeding at night while they were nursing lambs. After they had almost eaten off that field (fire control) we started them on half portions of alfalfa to keep their body condition up during breeding. They are bred now, and we have pulled them away from that ram and put them in with 5 other ewes and another ram (with a different color crayon). If they recycle and rebreed we will know which ram sired the lambs. Since they are registered Dorpers we need to know the sire on the ewe lambs - the ram lambs will be wethered for freezer sales. The second field has a lot of forage left in it and areas we cut for fire clearance have the cut grass and weeds left dry on the ground. The sheep and mule will clean up the cut forage. The new larger flock will stay in that field until lambing. We bring them into a night fold and feed a half feed of alfalfa at night with a barleycorn ration.

Easy keepers and thrifty sheep breeds need different management practices from standard English downs breeds. Most hair sheep are easy keepers so we need to be able to determine the condition scores of our sheep in order to adjust our management and feeding practices accordingly.

By the way, I just read an article by Ulf Kintzel about the different nutrient rate between green pasture grazing and dry pasture grazing. He has lots of extremely interesting articles posted on his website - White Clover Farms in New York state. They range from rotational pasture grazing through nutrition, breeding and lambing, parasite resistance, building lambing pens, chutes, etc. Lots of good information from a real sheep farmer with experience in Transhumance shepherding in Germany, and a degree in Agricultural Engineering. The articles are easy reading and easy to understand. Oh, by the way, the dried forage has higher nutrient value per lb. than green since the green forage has higher amounts of water per lb! I was relieved to hear that since I was feeling like a poor shepherd having only have green forage for very short times of the year - the rest of the year everything is dried out.
:yesss:
 

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