The cold weather last week saw grass growth drop to 45kg DM per ha per day. However, grass supply ahead of the ewes and lambs is still very good at 19 days. We are working off a daily grass demand of 3kg DM per head for our ewes with twin lambs at foot.
Lamb growth rate is looking good this year despite the slow start to grass growth. From birth to six weeks of age our twin lambs grew at 345gr per day. These lambs had an average birth weight of 5.2kg and hit 20.5kg at six weeks of age. Ewes have not received any meals since turnout, but were administered magnesium boluses to help control grass tetany.
Connie Grace is continuing the data collection on her multi-species sward study. The last 10 days or so has focussed on the first round of faecal-egg counts on the lambs. These lambs were sampled at six weeks of age. This is unnecessarily early for a commercial farm, but as part of the research work we need to monitor parasite challenge from very early in life. It is especially relevant as some of the species sown in the more novel mixtures have potential anti-parasitic effects.
Connie has a large team of students working with her, including Paul Smith and Phoebe Hartnett from UCD, Tiffany Tse from Canada and Celine Proaskat from France. When you consider that individual faecal sampling of 240 lambs is just one of Connie's many tasks, it's easy to see why she needs all the help.
While the research activity is really ramping up at Lyons now, there is also the post-lambing tidy-up to take place. Pens are taken down, sheds cleaned and washed out and the artificially reared lambs are approaching time for weaning.
This year we have had no issues with coccidiosis and, to-date, nematodirus does not appear to be a problem. We did have a few cases of joint ill, which responded relatively well to treatment. We used an anti-inflammatory along with antibiotics, and it certainly appears to have aided recovery of the affected lambs.
I had the opportunity to visit the boning hall of the ICM plant in Camolin recently and I have to admit I was massively impressed by what I saw. The majority of the carcases in ICM are processed or broken down prior to sale to produce a large range of value-added products. This necessitates a huge volume of work with each carcass.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the carcass display. We viewed a range of carcasses that fell into the ideal (18-20kg) weight range, over -weight/over-fat carcasses and under-weight and under- finished carcasses.
Alongside the carcase display were cuts that stem from the various different ranges. When presented in such a fashion it is easy to see why the processors are so tight on weights. It makes a massive difference to the appearance of the final cuts in retail packaging and, ultimately, consumer perception of the product.
A disappointing figure presented to our group on the day was that 55-60pc of carcasses fell outside of the ideal range, with some spring lamb carcases of 33kg hanging in the chills.
While the arguments about carcase cut-off weights will persist all year (not to mention price), it needs to be recognised that producers and processors alike are in the same industry.
There needs to be communication between both parties to ensure that each party is comfortable in the transaction. In the long term it does no good for the industry if there is a lack trust on one side or the other. The processor requires a product which meets their customers' requirements.
The producer requires a price that returns a reasonable income and will respond to a price premium to produce required products.
Dr Tommy Boland lectures in sheep production at Lyons Research Farm, UCD.