THIS year has been a record breaker in terms of the amount of rain that has fallen and while factory lamb price has held up pretty well through out the summer, lamb thrive has been poor on most farms. At this stage the emphasis must be on making the best out of the 2012 lamb crop but more importantly ensuring that next years lamb crop does not take a hit. LAMB PERFORMANCE
Energy levels in grass start to drop rapidly in September and October. Lambs not receiving meals on good quality grass can at best be expected to gain 1kg liveweight per week in September dropping to 0.7kg per week in October and 0.5kg per week from November on. Feeding 0.5kg of concentrate feed should improve liveweight gain by 0.5kg per head per week, while at the same time reducing the demand for grass. Finishing lambs indoors is unlikely to be financially viable given current concentrate prices unless lambs have reached a liveweight of around 38kg. EWE PERFORMANCE
Given that lambs have not been thriving well this summer we can take it as a given that ewes are no different. Within the next two months the majority of ewes will be mated. The condition of these ewes at mating will have a big impact on the litter size and lambing spread for the 2013 lamb crop. Ewes that are below target body weight / condition at mating will have fewer lambs and will lamb over an extended period next spring. In addition ewes will be thinner at lambing resulting in more problems . TASKS
The following areas should be kept in mind when preparing ewes for mating
- Body Condition – ewes will gain max 1kg liveweight per week. Thin ewes (Body Condition Score 2.5) need 8 – 10 weeks of good feed to reach target weight
- Grass supply-- thin ewes may need supplementation (0.5kg beet pulp / barley / head per day) for 4 -6 weeks pre mating
- Mineral deficiencies These are likely to have been exacerbated by high rainfall this year. Cobalt supplementation is likely to be beneficial in the run up to mating. Ewes need 2mg Cobalt per day, ensure that any supplement chosen has sufficient to meet this requirement. For oral drenches a number of doses (2 – 3 weeks apart) will be required as cobalt is not stored in the body. - Health issues o Lameness will prevent ewes from gaining weight and being able to take the ram.
o Liver Fluke is an issue again this year given the wet year. Treat with an anthelmintic that is effective against immature fluke.
o Stomach worms are not likely to be an issue for ewes and there is no benefit in treating the entire flock for worms. Individual thin ewes (particularly young ewes) may benefit from treatment.
o Scab / lice / ticks cause irritation and lack of thrive. Rams moving from ewe to ewe during the mating period will spread these parasites rapidly so ensure that all sheep are treated prior to mating. Dipping will control all external parasites.