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Managing the transition of breeding replacements

Need / Issue: Whether buying in replacements or transferring them from another holding, the transition can affect their growth rates and subsequently their rearing success.  Managing them to minimise stress and transition their diets can reduce or eliminate the growth check.


Managing ewe replacements well can make a big difference to the rearing success of a flock. Whether mated as ewe lambs or gimmers, their scan will influence the overall scan substantially.  A lot of this comes down to achieving growth rate targets; by mating time ewe lambs should achieve 60% of mature weight and gimmers should achieve 80% of mature weight.  They should continue growing steadily through pregnancy, with careful management in late pregnancy to reduce dystocia risk.  This means that growth rates pre-mating and through winter are a priority to prevent ‘catch-up’ requirement closer to lambing. 

When bringing replacements on from another farm, their transition will influence the likelihood of achieving growth rate targets. This should include:

  1. Establish the ewe groups in the month prior to transport – ewes like familiarity therefore keeping them in set groups will reduce an element of the stress of moving
  2. Calm handling pre-transport
  3. Calm management during the quarantine treatments
  4. Consistent nutrition pre- and post-movement – most often this will be grass but if novel forages or feeds are used, try and provide access to the same feeds on both farms – discuss this with the other farmer involved
  5. When nutrition is changing – manage the change so they are gradually introduced to the new diet over a week. If concerned, you may wish to start supplementing their nutrition prior to their movement.
  6. Moving them in good time before mating – three months prior to mating will allow for their adaption and give opportunity to monitor their weights to get them on track for mating targets
  7. Seek to buy from similar environment to the farm – this will reduce the stress short term and also increase suitability of the genetics.

    Topic: nutrition/management

    Production:  Meat

    Animal Category: Replacements

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