Proper pre-tupping planning and preparation is a must to ensure the best possible starting position for successful spring lambing, according to a North East vet.
With the tupping season getting closer, it is important to safeguard against some of the more common causes of reduced scanning levels to ensure ewes and tups are up in optimum condition, says large animal vet Claire Riddell, who is based at the Alnwick branch of Alnorthumbria Vets.
“It doesn’t feel like ten minutes ago since we were last putting the tups out, but the time is nearing again, and it is important both ewes and tups are prepared in advance to prevent disappointing scanning results come the turn of the year,” she said.
“Both ewes and tups need to be in good condition to ensure that conception levels are as good as possible.
“A body condition score of about 3/5 for ewes and about 3.5/5 for tups is ideal.
“Tups will lose a huge amount of condition whilst working, so being a little more well fleshed is often beneficial.
“The same goes for ewes, as ewes in better condition have higher ovulation rates than leaner ewes,
“‘Flushing’ of ewes three weeks before tupping will help to improve conception.”
Body condition is not only affected by nutrition, however, but also concurrent disease.
Last year, Alnorthumbria Vets saw several farms with disappointing scanning results due to poor ewe condition as a consequence of liver fluke infestation.
Therefore, Riddell is stressing the need to have a robust liver fluke and worm control strategy in place.
“Lameness is an on-going problem in a large proportion of our flocks, and has a significant influence on body condition,” she added.
“Therefore, ensuring both ewes and tups are sound is very important. Tups can be tricky to keep sound. However it is important to keep them sound, as lameness may play a part in their ability to serve ewes.
“A combination of vaccination and prompt treatment is the best way to reduce lameness.”
Trace elements also play an integral role in fertility. Selenium, in particular, is important in conception rates, and as Northumberland’s soil is notoriously deficient in it, it is important to check a flocks’ trace element status well in advance through blood sampling.
“The results will tell you the appropriate supplementation which should be carried out prior to tupping time,” Riddell said. “To ensure that ewes with chronic mastitis are not sent back to the tup, check their udders in advance of mating.
“Abortion vaccinations should also be given at least a month before tupping, some farms will be vaccinating against several diseases, some more time will be required. Tups should have a full MOT pre- tupping.
“This should be well in advance of the breeding season in case further tups need to be bought. The ‘Three T’s’ of teeth, toes, and testicles is often used as a reminder for key anatomy to be checked.”
Teeth must be checked to ensure they are in good condition as it will otherwise hinder the animal in receiving its nutritional requirements. Testicle size, meanwhile, is directly correlated to sperm production, with a smaller than average scrotal circumference possibly indicating reduced fertility.
“We are seeing an increasing number of farmers having their tups semen tested prior to tupping,” Riddell added.
“And, whilst this it is not a guarantee of performance, it can be an invaluable tool in picking out tups with a definite fertility problem. Feeding is important in the lead up to tupping, with tups requiring increased nutrition.
“As protein is important in sperm production, feeding a concentrate with a minimum of 18% protein from 6 weeks pre-tupping will be beneficial.”