Sheep - Things to do this Month - August

SHEEP – for a March/April lambing flock:

mature lambs

GRAZING MANAGEMENT

The quality and nutritional value of grass is diminishes in late summer, coinciding with the lambs reaching their peak growth season. The ideal grass height for ewes is between 4-8cms, as it grows longer it loses a lot of its nutritional value, so try to manage the grazing to maintain this height. You may need to top the fields to maintain the optimum sward (this is not the best option as you remove the growing tip and the sward will take some time to recover), but a better option is to introduce a Paddock Grazing or Strip Grazing system using portable electric fencing to create small paddocks and move the sheep frequently – daily if necessary – onto new ground, allowing the previous paddock to re-grow. Not only does this encourage fresh grass growth, but it also means the lambs are exposed to fewer parasite eggs.

SUMMER HEAT MANAGEMENT

Sheep shorn in the spring will have grown a layer of wool that insulates them from strong sunshine; so far from causing them to overheat it actually keeps them cool. Sheep shorn in summer won’t have the benefit of this protection, so try to provide shade, especially for rams as overheating of the testes can result in temporary infertility. Some sheep with pink skin can suffer from sunburn if they have no shelter from strong sunlight. Ensure they have a supply of fresh water at all times, and make sure the lambs can reach the trough.

LAMB MANAGEMENT:

  • If you haven’t weaned lambs yet, refer to July Monthly Tasks for advice on both lamb and ewe management
  • Ear tag all lambs before they reach 6 months
  • Continue to condition-score lambs (every week) to assess their readiness for market or the abattoir - If you need guidance on how to condition score, we filmed Adam Henson giving a demonstration using a Lleyn ewe and a Shetland – watch it here on our YouTube channel
  • Be aware of ‘Meat Withdrawal Periods’ when giving any medicines or treatments to lambs intended for slaughter
  • If you need to get lambs up to slaughter weight quickly, or if you’re short of grazing, you can give them supplementary feed, but beware feeding excessively, especially to ram lambs that can develop urinary calculi (stones) if overfed
  • Continue to be on guard against internal parasites in the lamb flock and carry out FECs on a regular basis: treat promptly with the most appropriate drench if indicated – this regime should pay for itself in reduced usage of drenches, faster growing lambs, and avoidance of resistant parasites on your holding
  • The 2nd programme in our DVD series, “Managing Your Flock for Peak Health” describes the management practices you can put into practice to protect your flock from both internal and external parasites.

Continue to monitor the flock:

  • LAMENESS – a lame sheep is not only in severe pain, but is also a source of infection to the whole flock. Treat promptly to prevent infection being spread on pasture (the bacteria that causes footrot can survive on pastures for 14 days or more, especially in wet, warm weather)
  • Consider isolating sheep with infected feet, and if they are ‘repeat offenders’, it may be better for the flock to cull these sheep who will otherwise be a permanent reservoir of disease
  • See “Managing Your Flock for Peak Health” (DVD) for a comprehensive description of each of the 6 separate foot conditions and how to treat them, by specialist sheep vet Agnes Winter RCVS – alternatively, get hold of the Summer edition of “Practical Sheep, Goats & Alpacas” magazine, which has a comprehensive guide to sheep foot disease and management by Carole Youngs of The Smallholder Series.
  • Continue to monitor ewes for mastitis
  • Provide shade for all stock if possible, especially rams
  • Watch all sheep carefully for signs of flystrike and other external parasites – even if you have treated with a long-acting insecticide, you still need to keep alert. Stamping, tail-wagging and patches of discoloured wool are signs that a sheep has been ‘struck’ and may be infested with maggots – act quickly to prevent damage, or in severe cases, death of the affected animal(s).
  • Sheep scab is an increasing threat to all sheep farmers: if you have itchy sheep rubbing themselves against fence posts, ask your vet to do a ‘skin scrape’ to diagnose the cause
  • The recent hot, dry weather will have lessened the threat of liver fluke in many areas, but following last winter’s severe wet weather the parasite that causes fluke has spread to many areas that were previously largely free of the disease. So, be aware of the symptoms and how to prevent disease in your flock.
  • Follow this LINK to view a short video that explains the complex lifecycle of the tiny water snail that is the vector for liver fluke in sheep, and describes how to protect your flock at all stages of the disease
  • If you’re planning to purchase new breeding stock (ewes & rams) this month, remember to prepare a quarantine area where you can observe the newcomers for a minimum of 6 weeks before allowing them to join your flock.
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