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Managing Twin Bearing Ewes for Increased Production

Production from ewes and their progeny can be predicted with confidence from knowledge of the ewe Condition Score (CS) profile. The profile sets the CS targets for key times during the reproductive cycle. Ewe CS at joining and at lambing set the framework of the profile and the environmental conditions, including expected level of pasture available in late-pregnancy, dictate the shape of the profile for a particular region. Twinning ewes have some special considerations.

How much extra effort you spend on managing twins will depend on your objectives and what proportion of the flock are twinners.

Twinning rate is dependant on condition of the ewe at joining (and flocks have different responses). Better condition means higher proportion of twinners (up to 45 extra foetuses per 100 ewes with each condition score increase).

Once ewes are identified with twins, there are good opportunities to manage them for higher production (survival, birth weight and wool production). Selective feeding twin ewes over single ewes may mean no increase in total feeding for the flock but significant increases in production.

Effect on Progeny Wool Production

Good ewe condition by lambing impacts on twin lamb wool production by increasing CFW by up to 0.3kg and decreasing fibre diameter by 0.15µm.

Progeny fleece and progeny fibre graphs

Effect on Lamb and Ewe Survival

Twin ewes are more prone to higher mortality at lambing, particularly when conditions are poor or the ewes are older. Twinners should be at least CS 3 and on good pasture to allow unrestricted intake by lambing to limit pregnancy toxaemia. Older ewes (full mouth and older) should have higher FOO @ lambing to ensure adequate intake.

Twin lambs generally have poorer survival and lower birth weights. Improving condition of the ewe prior to lambing has a large impact on twin survival (up to 20% increase per condition score of the ewe).

 

Guidelines

  • Twin ewes should be at least 2.7 CS, preferably 3.2 CS by lambing
  • Any ewe < CS2 should be removed from the mob and managed separately
  • Provide adequate intake and maintain good condition prior to lambing to avoid pregnancy toxaemia
  • Provide pasture to meet targets for twin bearing ewes and good shelter. Twin lamb survival is very affected by poor weather
  • If there is no opportunity to gain condition in late pregnancy on green pasture then maintain ewe condition throughout all of pregnancy

At pregnancy scanning (day 90)

  • If ewes are < CS 2.7, twinners require 1000 FOO of good quality green feed to allow good gains prior to lambing. If no green feed available, maintain CS through supplementation
  • If ewes are > CS 2.7, twinners require 900 FOO to have a small gain by lambing.
  • If < CS 2.5 then supplementary feed to gain condition to 2.5 CS by lambing

By lambing

  • Separate twinners from singles, allowing twinners to have the most sheltered paddock and >1800 FOO. If no green feed then ensure 25MJ/h/d to maintain over peak lactation
  • Twin ewes should be CS 3.2 by lambing for optimum production

Danger Zone

Twin ewes < CS 2.5 @ lambing,
Single ewes <CS 2 or >CS 4 @ lambing

Options:

  • Identify twinners (with option to run separately in late pregnancy) and remove dries @ scanning (d 90)
  • Draft off any twinners < CS 2.5 @ day 90 and manage separately to increase Condition Score
  • Draft off any single ewes < CS 2 @ day 90 and manage separately to increase Condition Score
  • Prepare lambing paddocks - especially twinner mob by:
    o Controlling predation
    o Providing shelter
    o Good quality and supply of pasture
  • Any ewes <CS 2 should be removed from the mob and managed separately

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Last Updated
March 17, 2011