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Heavier Lambs, More Lambs From Pre-Natal Shearing

25 September 2014

ARGENTINA – Pre-natal shearing benefits both lamb and ewe but proper planning is vital for success, Patagonian sheep farmers are being advised.

The National Institute of Agricultural Technology (NIAT) has said that shearing early leads to heavier lambs, better survival figures and higher ewe wool quality. 

Current advice is to shear 30-45 days prior to lambing. This ‘important’ period should coincide with an increase in feed to counter any late winter weather and grazing problems.

This supports lamb development which, according to researchers, results in 200 to 300 grams additional birthweight.

Ewe energy requirements increase following shearing assisting in lamb development because, with the ewe's thermal insulation sacrificed, feed intake rises.

Widely practiced across Patagonia for 30 years, NIAT advisers say the trend took off following research in the 1970’s.

“It started in New Zealand in the 1940’s and the studies proved the relationship between shearing pregnant ewes and the subsequent effect on production,” a NIAT spokesperson said.

“It is a well-recognised practice to achieve decreased mortality and better wool yields and tensile strength of fibres.”

Better udder accessibility is gained from shearing, allowing lambs to access vital colostrum and antibodies, NIAT added.

Planning is Vital

Andres La Torraca, livestock and wool technology coordinator stressed that prenatal shearing means anticipating breeding and lambing date, but also “requires integration into the overall farm planning.”

This means setting up fields to ensure rams service ewes.

“The practice must be supported by well-maintained fields, proper ram management and then plans on start dates of service,” he added.

Impact on Wool Quality

Tensile strength of fibres improves from pre-natal shearing as wool undergoes a thinning process by stress and lack of food at the end of winter.

Thinning causes more resistant wool with a higher industrial performance that is not broken at the base, explained NIAT.

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms.