The Managament of Triplet Bearing Ewes
With an increasing number of flocks scanning 200 % or more lambs, attention must be given to management practices, which enhance the survival of the number of lambs, which can then grow to acceptable weaning weights. When 20 % or more of the ewes are producing triplets, the economics of doing this is obvious.
While flock size and topography will influence which practises are more suitable, there are some basic principles, which generally apply.
The first thing is to secure a scanning operator who can accurately identify triplets.
This is more easily achieved if the ewes are within 80 days of their pregnancy. They should also be fairly empty of stomach contents.
It is not necessary, and it is a waste of grass, to separate the triplet ewes from the mob at this stage, if they are in good condition. Three to four weeks after scanning, triplet carrying ewes, which are going to lamb in the first two weeks of lambing, should be separated. Also this is a good opportunity to take off any other ewes, which are losing body condition.
These ewes are now five to six weeks from the commencement of lambing. By being in a separate flock, mob stress is reduced. The daily intake should be increased to about 1.6 kg DM per day. These ewes could still be in a rotation.
Maintain body condition
Maintaining body condition is vital, as this will allow them to withstand any temporary adverse event, such as a change in the weather.
Two to three weeks before lambing, these valuable ewes are less prone to metabolic disorders, if they can be set stocked on pasture which can be maintained at about 1800 kgs DM per hectare. At this level of feeding a ewe can eat as much as she can in 24 hours, but she also has to exercise regularly to do this.
Key to survival
The key to the success of survival of lambs born as triplets is to have the ewe carrying adequate body fat and to have her fed so that an ample supply of colostrum is available. Research and farmer experience has shown that the delay in having their first drink is one of the major causes of death. of triplet lambs.
Lambs should be more than 4kgs liveweight at birth. If they are not, the chances of survival is much reduced.
So it is vital to have the triplet carrying ewes set stocked, in the most sheltered area of the farm, at a stocking level, which minimises the risk of mismothering at birth. This will enable ewes to be settled before they lamb, and it will bring out the best of their mothering instinct.
Where it is practical, some shepherding to assist with birth complications, and if necessary supplement new born lambs which require colostrum pays worthwhile dividends.
Whether we like it or not there is no free lunch. The extra care required for ewes, which carry triplets, is because of the fact that there is a higher incidence of malpresentation and starvation of lambs. This can be two lambs at once, or breech birth, or just simply the third lamb not finding sufficient colostrum from the teat it sucks.
If you farm in a situation where fostering is suitable, by following the above practises, lambs can often be looked after by the birth mother for the first few days, and when a foster mother is available a good triplet lamb can be successfully mothered on.
Results from triplet bearing ewes
From mixed aged ewes if an 80 % survival level is reached this will produce 240 % of lambs.
From 2th ewes a 70 % survival is probably realistic. This seems disappointing but this will still produce 210 % of lambs to ewes lambing.
Top performing sheep have to be in excellent health. This means that vaccination programmes are completed and that trace element requirements are adequate.
The policy, for Greeline ewes that produce triplets, is for them to rear the three lambs. Each year some ewes have weaned more than ninety kgs of lamb.