Fears that winter freeze will slash spring lamb crop
Ewe condition and fertility hit by bad weather
Published 14/12/2010 | 05:00
Speculation is mounting that the freezing weather could result in fewer lambs on the ground next spring.
Sheep farmers struggling to manage snowbound flocks during the recent cold spell could be facing a double whammy of higher winter costs and lower litter size, experts have warned.
Flocks due to lamb down after St Patrick's Day could be worst affected because the mating coincided with the worst weather, claimed Teagasc sheep expert Michael Gottstein.
Both nutrition and fertility levels have been affected by the cold weather, he warned.
Hill ewes brought down to the lowlands for mating normally benefit from a higher plane of nutrition and gain body condition score before and during the mating season.
During a normal year, the ewe could improve from a body condition score of 2 to 2.5 or 3 during their six to seven weeks on lower ground.
However, in many cases, the nutritious lowland pastures have been covered by frost and snow for at least three weeks and, as a result, there is concern that ewe body condition scores will not improve enough.