MANAGING the condition score of ewes, particularly at weaning time, was highlighted at the recent SRUC open day at Castle Grant Home Farm, Grantown, which looked at efficiencies for suckler cows and breed ewes. 
While a ewe’s body condition score should be checked throughout the year, it is at weaning time that it is especially important to keep an eye on her weight, as well as her general condition, before tupping season commences. It is ideal at this time, pointed out SAC beef and sheep consultant, Kirsten Williams, to collect data such as weaning weights and the number of lambs compared to scanning percentages in order to make management decisions for breeding stock to be used the following season. 
It is expected that a ewe’s body condition score at weaning will be on the leaner side of the score board, but it is important to give her the best opportunity to put on condition in order to increase fertility. 
For example, the expected body condition score of a hill or upland ewe at weaning will be around 2.0 which should increase to 2.5 and 3.0, respectively, at tupping time while a lowland ewe should move from 2.5 at weaning to 3.5 at mating. 
It is estimated that it takes 12% of the ewe’s body weight to increase the body condition score by one, which, for an 80kg lowland ewe needing to gain 9.5kg between weaning and tupping, will take six to eight weeks to gain this weight at approximately 170g liveweight gain per day. 
It is equally important, however, to ensure ewes are not overfat as this can also have a detrimental impact on fertility. 
The SRUC example took 100 Blackface ewes per ram, and those with a body condition score of 1 at mating bred 79 lambs compared to 162 lambs for the 100 ewes with a condition score of 3. These extra lambs born per ewe, says Kirsten, impacts the bottom line of the balance sheet and ‘is a fair amount to hit the pocket with when paid per kg.’