Pregnancy testing ewes - the benefits

Brent McLeod - Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Senior Land Services Officer – Livestock (Sheep) and Geoff Duddy - Principal Consultant, Sheep Solutions

Land Fact LF-AP-10

Introduction

The use of ultrasound technology to identify a ewe’s pregnancy status and/or litter number has been commercially available for over 30 years. In recent years improvements in scanning accuracy, handling equipment, data capture (and use) when managing lambing ewe flocks have contributed to improved lamb survival within both wool and crossbred lamb enterprises.

Scanning can assist with management decisions in terms of:

  • Which ewes to feed and your projected feed requirements (pasture and supplements),
  • Which ewes to sell,
  • When to start a feeding program,
  • What feed quality is needed, and
  • The differential management of dry, single and multiple bearing ewes prior to lambing

The benefits

The higher the dry ewe percentage in a flock, the greater the benefit from scanning.

As the scanning rate (foetuses/100 ewes) increases, the benefit of scanning for multiples and managing these ewes separately increases compared to the benefit of scanning for just pregnant versus non-pregnant ewes.

Scanning and differential nutritional management of ewes based on pregnancy/foetal number can help improve:

  • ewe and lamb survival rates
  • ewe wool quality and cut
  • lamb(s) lifetime wool quality and cut
  • lamb muscle development and growth rates
  • placental development
  • udder development
  • milk production and quality
  • flock fertility
  • production efficiencies
  • classable ewe numbers and
  • saleable lambs, breeding ewes and/or mutton

It will also assist in the reduction of:

  • supplementary feed costs (through targeted feeding of supplements to those ewes most in need)
  • enterprise production costs

The value of scanning also increases if poor seasonal conditions and/or drought occurs. Targeted paddock selection and/or strategic feeding of multiple bearing ewes to improve ewe/lamb survival and their life-long productivity, have positive benefits to cost outcomes.

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