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What score should I give my ewe for mothering-ability?

Lambing time is responsible for a large proportion of labour requirement throughout the sheep farming year. Ewe mothering ability is a trait that could potentially reduce the labour requirement or time spent per ewe. Differences exist among sire groups in the prevalence of poor ewe mothering ability with the progeny of some sires demonstrating greater ewe mothering ability than others. Work is currently on-going to include ewe mothering ability in the breeding goal for Irish sheep.

A key challenge in sheep systems is the labour requirement. Lambing accounts for over 25% of the labour requirement across the sheep farming year; more than double the labour required at any other key time point (e.g., weaning, mating etc.). Therefore any measure that could potentially reduce the labour required or time spent per ewe at lambing should be considered. Ewe mothering ability is a subjective measure of the ewes behaviour towards her lamb(s) and is scored on a five point scale where 1=very poor (i.e., the ewe shows no interest in her lamb(s)) and 5=very good (i.e., the ewe is very protective, licks the lamb(s) immediately, follows lamb(s) closely and bleats for the lamb(s)).

Ewe mothering-ability is a trait that has been recorded on CPT Farms since 2015. This is an extremely important trait that all farmers desire to have in abundance in their ewes. Mis-mothering can be a problem at lambing time and can waste a lot of time on sheep farms. The option to record ewe mothering-ability was given to breeders in 2018. This trait can be easily recorded on the LambPlus App along with other important traits at lambing time. See table below for description on how to accurately record ewe mothering-ability.

1. Very PoorEwe has no interest in her lambs.
2. PoorEwe stands well away and is slow to lick the lambs.
3. AverageEwe licks the lamb and followsthe lamb to the lambing pen.
4. GoodEwe licks the lamb, is protective and follows closely to lambing pen.
5. Very GoodEwe is very protective, licks lambs immediately,follows lambs very close and bleats for her lambs.