· Feeding, hence growth rate, prior to mating is paramount. The pre-mating period provides the greatest opportunity to influence fertility, fecundity and adult body weight without adversely affecting dystocia (difficult birth) in singles. Hoggets under 40kg should not be mated.
· Wintering on all grass or crops has been used successfully.
· Hoggets carrying twins should be given the best feed and most sheltered lambing paddocks.
· Feed all hoggets as non-mated hoggets, that is, preferably better than maintenance. Twin bearing hoggets should be given at least double maintenance from six weeks prior to lambing and singles up to one and a half times maintenance for the last three weeks. Flocks with a history of increased incidence of dystocia may need to have intakes restricted of single bearing hoggets up to lambing.
· Maintain preferential feeding to hoggets rearing twins.
· Rotate hoggets rearing singles. This grazing technique has growth benefits to the hogget, but lambs are usually unaffected compared to set stocking.
· Leafy pasture of good quality with a length of not less than 3cm is required from weaning to ensure adequate growth
· Weigh stock to ensure meeting target growth rates. For example lambs weighing 25kg in mid December have to grow at 125gm/day to reach 40 kg by mid April.
· Vaccines protecting against abortion diseases (Toxoplasmosis and Campylobacteriosis) should be moved forward a year if routinely given to two tooths. These are administered a minimum of 4 weeks prior to mating.
· Administer Clostridial vaccines pre-lambing.
· Trace element sufficiency, especially iodine, selenium and vitamin B12 is essential.
· A sound parasite control programme is essential for maximum growth. Prelamb protection against internal parasites using a long acting anthelmintic is recommended.
· Use sire breeds recognised for lamb vigour and ease of birth. Almost all traditional British terminal sire breeds may increase the incidence of dystocia leading to unacceptable losses of both lambs and dams. Some farmers have reported up to 70% assistance rates with the use of some terminal sire breeds.
Preferred sire breeds for hogget lambing are Texels, Cheviots and Wiltshire’s.
· The joining of vasectomised rams at least 20 days prior to the introduction of entire rams can beneficially advance the mean onset of the breeding season, thus increasing pregnancy rates.
· Use higher ewe to ram ratios than mature ewes. No more than 90:1 and preferably as groups of rams rather than single sire matings. Ram hoggets have proven as successful as old rams in a group situation. Failures have been reported however.
· A joining duration of one and a half cycles is usually sufficient as late lambing hoggets complicate spring/summer feed management.
· Use mating crayons to identify those hoggets mated and pregnancy scan all marked hoggets into empty and those pregnant with singles, twins and triplets.
· Pre-lamb shearing about 6-8 weeks prior to lambing will increase birth weights and the vigour of parturition in lambing hoggets. This, coupled with the desire to seek shelter will enhance lamb survival. There is about a 25% decrease in birth weight across all birth ranks in hogget lambs compared to ewes three years and older. Very few twins will be born in the safe range (over 3.5kg).
· Set stock all lambing hoggets. They are excellent mothers but need more time to bond. Some farmers report better success by daily shedding- off.
· Reduce twins to single rearing rank if birth weights are very low or if feed is in short supply as the hogget and her lambs will have a reduced chance of attaining an acceptable liveweight at weaning.
· Always reduce to twins.
· Increase shepherding intensity (number of visits to the lambing paddocks per day).
· Wean at 10-12 weeks if feed is plentiful and the quality is controlled. Be prepared to wean as early as 8 weeks if feed is in short supply.
· Managed properly there is no reduction in 2-tooth or 4-tooth production.
· Treat weaned hoggets as weaned lambs by rotating on high quality pasture. Run separately to dry hoggets prior to mating if behind in condition. Texel, East Friesian and Finn X hoggets seem to be better at maintaining growth preceding 2-tooth mating.
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