By Jill Hunter, Harbro beef and sheep nutritionist

Many factors have to be considered when turning out tups, including: genetics, conformation, body condition, feet, feeding, fertility and health. It all needs to come together at the same time and be completely spot-on come sale day.

This doesn’t happen by chance. It takes great determination, meticulous attention to detail and utter dedication to bring everything together.

Years before sale day, the process begins with choosing the next line of genetics. There has to be a selection of desirable genetics, physical characteristics and well conformed animals to choose from. Selecting animals only on figures or physical traits is risky and a balanced view should be taken on both.

Health is next on the list. Animals must be healthy if they are to thrive and fulfil their genetic potential. It’s important to keep flock vaccinations and treatments up to date and let buyers know the current health status. There is a growing trend towards being a member of a health scheme so flocks are accredited for diseases like Maedi Visna, Enzootic abortion in ewes and Scrapie which gives buyers a level of assurance.

Feet can be a challenge when animals are pushed to perform. Getting dietary starch and fibre right reduces laminitis risk and correct mineral supplementation helps maintain correct foot formation. In addition, correct mineral supplementation benefits overall health, hair, wool and fertility.

Fertility is of course of huge importance when it comes to selling tups and needs consideration from when the lambs are still young. Running lambs out with a few ewes can encourage them to work when they are shearlings.

Feeding

Maintaining consistent growth throughout life is the goal and this needs to start as early as possible, beginning with the introduction of creep feed while the lambs are still with their mothers. Feeding creep allows the rumen to develop quickly and fully and increases the surface area where nutrients can be absorbed. The result of which is increased performance which will last a lifetime. Additionally, feeding creep allows for a smooth transition at weaning, reducing the chance of a growth stunt.

One issue to be aware of when feeding tups is gravel or urinary calculi. This is where mineral stones form in the urinary tract and prevent animals from urinating. Feeds containing magnesium and phosphorus increase the risk, as does not drinking enough water or eating enough forage.

Water availability should always be a high priority for livestock. If housed indoors, a constant running water system provides a continual fresh supply and encourages animals to drink. This will both reduce the risk of urinary calculi as well as increase feed intake.

The ideal condition for selling tups is fit not fat. Overfed, fat tups are likely to have reduced reproductive performance, which impacts on repeat custom. The type of feed should be chosen based on quality ingredients and palatability. Coarse mixes always look and smell appetising but may not always be practical, especially where large groups of shearlings are being turned out.

The Clover range of sheep feed from Harbro has been developed in partnership with the pedigree sheep world and has been used to feed champions from across the major breeds for the past 30 years. Max Clover Kelso Tup and Lamb is the flagship product comprising a number of palatable feeds which has been carefully selected to make it ideal for feeding to breeding lambs and shearlings on the lead up to sale day:

• A ‘rumen friendly’ nut which has been created from coarsely ground, rather than finely ground ingredients. This means the nut is slower digested in the gut, resulting in less risk of acidosis. Acidosis doesn’t always present itself as bloat, but can go undetected and result in laminitis, where animals look ‘hot’ on their feet or become ‘floundered.’

• The product contains Maxammon treated cereal. Maxammon is an alkaline grain treatment which stabilises rumen pH, allowing higher levels of starch to be fed.

• Quality protein sources have been used to optimise muscle growth.

• Evo is included which is proven to reduce stress and increase appetite, both incredibly important factors on the run up to tup sales.

• Yea-Sacc yeast in the formulation improves rumen efficiency and increases fibre digestion, ensuring tups make the most out of the feed provided.

• Fish oil aids hair and skin quality and boosts fertility.

• Lastly, it is fully mineralised and includes ammonium chloride to reduce the risk of urinary calculi.

Top tips for feeding tups:

- Feed a little concentrate, often

- Feed at the same times each day

- Don’t change feed for final six weeks before sale day

- Make roughage (hay or straw) available in a feed ring when housed indoors

- Manage grazing so sward is kept between 4-8cm

- Ensure fresh, clean water is always available

- Provide plenty shelter to keep tups cool

- Don’t mix social groups of tups