Tupping time is arguably the most important time in the sheep farmer’s calendar. If the embryos aren’t in the ewes to start with, there can’t possibly be the lambing percentage in the spring.

For the ewes it starts with maximizing both numbers and quality of eggs produced. Post weaning ewes should be split according the body condition, ewes need to be fit, but not fat at this time of year. Monitor body condition and make sure that ewes are in the correct condition (3.0-3.5 at tupping). Ewes should be improving in condition on the run up to tupping, not static. In fact, improved nutrition is needed for at least one cycle to influence the ovaries to produce more eggs. Ewes should be flushed on good quality feed for 3 weeks before tupping to boost ovulation. Also, feeding 180-210 g of soya per day has also been shown to increase ovulation rate from 1.29 to 1.70 per ewe.

N3 fatty acids from fish oils have been shown to have a positive effect on fertility by increasing levels of progesterone to improve embryo survival. Although n3 is present in grass, by tupping time these levels will have diminished.

In terms of trace elements, cobalt is a key nutrient during egg development and for the early foetus. However, it also contributes to lamb behaviour, with ewes supplemented with cobalt at tupping giving birth to more active lambs. Feeding zinc will help with hoof quality and ensure both tups & ewes stay sound during tupping. Also, make sure your pre-tupping feeding includes selenium whilst avoiding too much phosphorus as this can lead to embryo loss.

For the tups, it’s worth remembering that semen takes around 7 weeks to produce. So check tups for body condition 10 weeks before you want to use them. Feed high quality protein supplement (16%) for 6-8 weeks to improve semen production. Supplementary selenium can improve sperm quality as well. However, you need to keep them off red clover as it contains oestrogens.

Finally, during the first few weeks of pregnancy when implantation of the embryo is taking place farmers need to make sure that stressors are kept to an absolute minimum. This includes nutritional stressors; even a small change in forage quality can have a negative effect on implantation of embryos. Also, rounding sheep up at this time will lead to lost embryos and consequently a reduction in lambing percentage.

Ask your rep or ring the office at Jamesons to find out more about our tupping buckets.

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