Over-wintering hoggs on rough grazing can be an attractive option for those eligible for the Scottish Upland Support Scheme, but the animals still require careful management.
David Thornton, Rumenco technical manager, says these empty hoggs are often left to their own devices on many farms.
“I think we have lessons to learn from the dairy sector here. Good heifer rearing has a big impact on subsequent performance.”
With some additional inputs, Mr Thornton says farmers can potentially influence the future productivity of ewe hoggs in terms of breeding ability, the number of lambs they produce over their lifetime and the length of their working life.
Winter grass alone is unlikely to provide sufficient energy, protein, minerals and vitamins to sustain the target 200g/day growth rate needed to ensure gimmers are at least 80 per cent of their mature weight at tupping.
“Many forages are short of trace elements as well, which are thought to impact on growth and development and the ovulation capacity of these juvenile sheep.”
“In the dark days of winter when day length is short, there is an increased incidence of bent-leg in ewe hoggs. Supplementary vitamins, especially D3, help support strong bones, feet and teeth, which are clearly essential for a long and prolific working life.”