Feeding space: The number of sheep which can be comfortably housed in a given area will in many cases come under pressure in late pregnancy due to ewes rapidly expanding in size.

Where there is insufficient feeding space available, it can be a trigger of metabolic disease or result in injuries or abortions. Ewes should be monitored eating on a regular basis to ensure adequate space is available and that any shy eaters are competing OK for feed.

The recommended trough space for a 50kg ewe is 400mm for concentrates and 150mm for silage. This increases to 450mm to 500mm concentrate trough space for a 70kg ewe and 200mm for silage while for a 90kg ewe the recommended trough space is 600mm for meal feeding and 250mm for silage.

Ewe condition should also be monitored regularly and any ewes losing condition should ideally be removed for preferential treatment. Adding a twin-bearing ewe to a batch of triplet bearing ewes or a single-bearing ewe to a group of twin-bearing ewes is a straightforward way of delivering preferential treatment.

Access to a plentiful supply of clean fresh water is also vital with ewes capable of easily drinking 5l to 6l per day when concentrate feeding levels are increased and forage is also of high dry matter.

It is also a good time to assess if there is any changes to? facilities that could be made to reduce labour during lambing – with ewes drinking upwards of 10l of water daily in early lactation a convenient water supply can greatly reduce labour.

Weight of feeds: Typical late pregnancy feeding programmes are based on small incremental increases in supplementation rates on a weekly basis. It is advisable not to assume the weight of different concentrate formulations, with pelleted feeds much denser than cereal-based rations.

There can be upwards of 1kg to 2kg difference in the weight of feeds in a standard 10l to 12l bucket. It is important when offering feed to get an accurate assessment of weight and repeat this step when there are changes to the concentrate being fed.

SIS replacements: Questions are arising as normal at this stage of the year post-scanning regarding rules for replacement ewe hoggets being included in the ewe calculation to comply with a flock’s reference number in the Sheep Improvement Scheme. Ewe lambs born in the previous year can be included in the ewe count once they turn 12 months of age.

For example, if a farmer has 10 ewe lambs on hand born in mid-March 2023 then these sheep will be deemed eligible to contribute to a farmer’s reference number from mid-March 2024. Yearling ewe hoggets do not need to be in-lamb to be included in the count. This is of little solace to farmers waiting to sell cull ewes but is the rule in place.

Another common question? surrounds accessing one flock’s reference number. This can be viewed via your agfood.ie account by clicking on the SIS tab and selecting the option to view your application. Your flock’s selected actions and year selected to purchase a genotyped ram can also be found here.

Date reminder: The Teagasc hill sheep conference takes place on Thursday 15 February at 7pm in the Glendalough Hotel, Glendalough, Co Wicklow, A98 X9C1. Topics to be discussed will include sustainable control of liver fluke in hill sheep, hill sheep breeding and optimum management of uplands.