Choosing the best lambs for replacements
After a long, cold and slow-growing spring, summer has brought good grass growth, with plenty of heat and dry days for silage and haymaking.
Our farm consists of 85ha in three separate divisions, with the furthest division 16km away. We are stocked with 600 mid-season ewes and replacements. All our lambs are sold to a local wholesale butcher at 20kg+ deadweight. We also have 30 autumn calving cows with all their progeny brought to beef.
Our farm is being used as a central progeny test farm for the testing of pedigree rams by the ICBF to help genetic evaluation of rams from information at lambing and on their lambs.
To do this, we sponge and AI all ewes in two groups, so we end up with two crops of lambs of a similar age. This year we used 15 rams from five different breeds -- Vendeen, Charollais, Texel, Suffolk and Belclare.
Ewes are all electronically tagged so, after birth, all lambs are tagged, weighed and correlated to their mothers' tags. There is no paperwork as all data is processed through a handheld recorder and information is sent directly to the ICBF office by email.
After birth, we weigh the lambs once at 40 days and again at weaning time, as well as scanning them for back fat.
From this information, we have picked our ewe lambs to keep as replacements for next year. For the past few years, we have not put any ewe lambs to the ram, but this year we plan to try those that reach 45-50kg in weight by late October.
All of our 2010 lambs have been weaned since the first week of July and we have divided them into four main groups:
- Ewe lambs on grass only;
- Any ram lambs (which are about 10pc as most were castrated at birth) on good silage after grass and 300g of meal;
- Lambs over 34kg, fed on new grass and tyfon mix. The grass mix was 3kg tyrella, 3kg cancan, and 3kg trend with 2kg of clover blend into which we mixed 1kg of tyfon. This was sown on June 3, using a spring-tined direct grass seeder, giving the ground two runs of the machine. We used 2.5 bags of 10.10.20 and 1.5t of lime per acre. The field was old pasture sprayed with Round-up three weeks before;
- Lighter lambs, fed on grass with no meal.
The dry ewes follow this group, so the lambs get the best of the grass and are then moved on. This week we sowed another field of new grass into which we mixed 1kg of fodder rape, which will be fit to graze in mid-September to finish these lighter lambs.
We also have a small, motley group of pet lambs and lame lambs, just like on any farm. These lambs are getting 300g of meal and grass.
The ewes have been divided into three groups:
- All ewes of condition score 3 and over;
- Ewes below condition score 3 that get good grass-to-gain weight before mating;
- Cull ewes and hoggets.
Our reasons for culling include known problems at lambing, persistent lameness, mastitis and old age.
The culls are now shorn and will be sold in the next two months. The remainder of the ewes will be shorn in early September.
The main aim now is to have 80pc of lambs sold by October, so we can close paddocks earlier for grass next spring. With around 500 ewes due to lamb in one week next spring, we will need a lot of feed available when lambing begins.
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