A Guide To Improving Ewe Fertility

guide to improving ewe fertility

Pre-tupping flock management 

It is recommended that optimum ewe body condition is maintained by managing and monitoring flock BCS all-year-round, with a particular focus at specific points in the year such as pre-tupping.

This is for a number of reasons: 

  • Ewes have an underlying four-to-five-month follicle maturation cycle so nutrition and BCS have an influence on ovulation rates for up to six months before tupping 
  • If ewes receive below maintenance level of nutrition in the six weeks pre-tupping, there is a risk to early foetal development 
  • The loss of too much body condition can affect future fertility and offspring fertility

It is also worth noting that feeding legumes, red clover or silage 45 days before and after tupping should be avoided to prevent ovarian function being compromised.

As part of your pre-tupping management, make sure you don’t overlook your rams. Consider giving them a health MOT to ensure they are in optimal condition to avoid potential fertility issues.  

guide improving ewe

Leaner ewe management  

Leaner ewes (with a BCS of 2 or less post-weaning), or ewes that don’t reach their target BCS six weeks pre-tupping should have their nutritional intakes increased gradually to achieve optimum BCS at mating. 

Ewes that are below their target BCS tend to have a poorer ovulation rate, with a reduction in scanning percentage. If lowland crossbred ewes increase their BCS from 2.5 to 3.5 scanning percentages can increase by 20-40%.  

Ewes with a lower BCS will be hormonally driven to increase their dry matter intakes by up to 30% more, however if grazing intakes do not meet energy requirements, flushing could be used to increase body condition scores. Flushing by feeding a high plane of nutrition can be achieved by providing access to better-quality grazing, and if necessary, supplementary feed and nutritional blocks. 

The fertility of ewes in good condition won’t be improved by flushing as an ideal BCS will optimise ovulation, conception and embryo implantation rates. 

If leaner ewes don’t gain condition on good grazing after four to five weeks, seek advice from your vet.

For more information on ewe nutrition and improving BCS pre-tupping check out our three top tips for preparing ewes for tupping blog. 

improving ewe fertility

Avoiding issues when improving ewe fertility

Increasing ewe nutritional intakes to improve ewe fertility should be done with care to avoid issues arising. For example:

  • A rise in nutrition in highly prolific breeds, such as the Lleyn and Aberdale, will result in excessive ovulation rates and therefore excessive embryo numbers developing
  • When leaner, older ewes are pushed into high ovulation rates there is an increased likelihood that they could carry triplets which could cause issues during pregnancy and at lambing