Flushing Ewes

To expand from the last post with a few of the things that we don’t do.

We do not do any flushing of ewes prior to breeding.

Every time I say that, I can see the eyebrows raising.  Here’s my simplistic reasoning.

Animals will naturally increase or decrease reproduction based on available nutrition. Scaling back in lean years and returning to normal reproductive rates in good years. Flushing is a bit of an attempt to replicate good years.

The primary reason for flushing seems to be to bring ewes into better condition in the hopes of increasing ovulation.

To me the weak link is that this would dictate that ewes are in poorer condition prior to flushing. While there may certainly be lean years on the ranch where animals might be feeling the pinch and therefore lose condition, this is not going to be the norm.

So our approach is to try to prevent the poorer condition from happening in the first place. If animals are already in good condition coming into breeding, flushing has less affect.

As I see it, there are a couple of key points in managing good condition year round. Grass and minerals.

We keep our ewes on grass and the last few years we have had grass aplenty. But grazing management will determine the grass outcome and will even affect how nutritious the grass is. Better grazing management leads to better nutrition, leads to better health and condition.

We make our own mineral mix. This basics of our mineral program can be found in the book Natural Sheep Care by Pat Coleby.  I’ll expand on how we do our minerals in another post.  Suffice it to say here that minerals are linked to breeding success.  Indeed this is probably why flushing does work when animals are in poorer condition. There will be an increase of minerals with an increase of power packed foods typically used for flushing.

I guess in summary I am banking on good health, good condition and a solid mineral program to net me more in the way of lambs than I believe flushing alone will.

I do not feel there is anything wrong with flushing and I don’t doubt it works in many operations. I can’t help but wonder though, that if more operations were grass based if flushing would become less popular.

And lastly, it is very noteworthy to say that our goal here is natural production, not maximum production.  Always respect your own goals by aligning your own practices with them.