Aim for 80pc lamb draft by May
Published 16/02/2010 | 05:00
Early lamb production is a high-input system, and to make it worthwhile it also needs to be a high output system.
Achieving high levels of output hinges on having a good litter size (1.7 lambs per ewe lambed down) and high growth rates, while at the same time keeping a close eye on costs. On top of all that it is also essential that the lambs do not miss the market.
Over the past few years the prices for early spring lamb have been good for a month or so after Easter, after which they start to tail off. A good target would be to have 80pc of the lambs drafted by, say, the first week of May.
Early January-born lambs for the Easter market are at this stage coming to an important milestone in their lives. For the first few weeks of life lambs depend almost solely on their mother's milk to provide them with sustenance.
In the lactating ewe, peak milk yield is reached at around three weeks after lambing and from there on it starts to decline. By the time the lambs are six weeks old they will be looking for other sources of sustenance to keep them going. This is where creep feeding comes into play.
The last two months of cold weather have put an end to many a great grass field, and ewes that should have been feasting on lush grass are busy sorting through heaps of dead and decaying vegetation. The feed value of this type of grass is very low and it needs to be grazed off in order to allow light to the base of the sward so that new growth can be encouraged.
As I have already said, up to about six weeks after lambing ewes are milking well, and where the roughage is not good enough to sustain good milk yields, concentrate supplementation is advised.