It is important to prepare your housing properly to prevent any potential problems. Housing ewes over winter helps prevent damage to the grass sward, but adequate space is required to limit nutritional and disease issues. In straw yards ewes need between 0.9m2 and 1.4m2 each. Shearing ewes at housing can reduce the amount of space required by 25%, as well as improving lamb birth weight.
Ewes need to be fed fresh food, so the troughs should be easily cleanable, and they should be placed at a height so that they are not fouled in. An adequate trough length is important to allow all stock to eat at the same time. Long narrow pens maximise feeding space. If you haven’t had your silage or hay tested you will not be able to produce an appropriate diet, since the dry matter, protein content and metabolisable energy can vary greatly from field to field. The decision as to whether concentrates are required, and in what quantity, should be based on forage quality and expected crops. Group ewes first on expected lambing date, using raddle marks as a guide, then by litter size so they can be fed appropriately. Each ewe will require 9 litres of water per day pre-lambing, and more afterwards.
Set up a hospital pen for sick or injured sheep, away from the lambing areas to prevent disease spread. Provide plenty of dry, clean bedding to keep feet dry and minimise foot-rot issues. Good ventilation without being draughty is important. Set up lights to make checking stock late at night easier.
Treating ewes for fluke at, or shortly after, housing will still be important this year for those of you that have fluke on your farms. Even though the summer was dry, the wetter weather we have recently had will mean there is still a fluke risk.
Not everyone will house ewes due to increased cost of feed, straw and labour. If leaving the ewes out for winter, it is vital to rotate their grazing to ensure grass re-growth is possible.