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Monday 11 December 2017

Nutrition issues in ewes highlighted at national conference

Pictured at the Teagasc National Sheep Conference at the Malton Hotel, Killarney were (l-r) Willie Lynch, Bantry, John O'Sullivan, Waterville and Patrick O'Sullivan Waterville. Photo:Valerie O'Sullivan
Pictured at the Teagasc National Sheep Conference at the Malton Hotel, Killarney were (l-r) Willie Lynch, Bantry, John O'Sullivan, Waterville and Patrick O'Sullivan Waterville. Photo:Valerie O'Sullivan
John Fagan

John Fagan

Underfed ewes are one of the biggest sources of worm infections in sheep flocks, according the latest Scottish research.

Close to 1,000 farmers attending Teagasc's National Sheep Conference in Trim, Co Meath last week were told that improving protein supplementation had a direct impact on the worm burden in ewes.

With veterinary experts becoming more and more concerned with the increasing levels of resistance to anthelmintic worm doses, Dr Jos Houdijk from the Scottish Rural College in Edinburgh outlined four ways for farmers to fight worm burdens.

He highlighted that protein supplementation using soya bean meal as the protein source increased the productivity of the ewe in terms of improved milk production for the lamb, along with reducing worm burden in both the ewe and her lambs.

He also noted that the incorporation of 70pc of a grass sward with chicory reduced worm burdens by up to 65pc and increased lamb thrive by 25pc. Chicory has not gained widespread popularity here due to its tendency to die out of the sward after about three to five years.

He also urged farmers to only use anthelmintics on the worst thriving lambs within the flock.

However, Dr Houdijk cautioned that this would only work on flocks that were regularly monitored for weight gain and that electronic tagging of lambs made this task a lot easier.

Dr Houdijk also highlighted the initial success from research in both New Zealand and Australia that has started to breed resistance to worms into the sheep. This research is now being extended to Scotland where Blackface sheep populations are being assessed for resistance to worms.

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Delegates at the conference were informed that there was scope to reduce costs and increase profitability by up to €221/ha on many sheep farms through better grassland management.

They were also advised to zone in on the energy value of the feed supplements that they were purchasing.

"You could have two rations with and equal crude protein value, but with very different energy ratings," said Edward Egan, from Teagasc's Navan office.

He believes that the type of protein in a feed has a big impact on feed quality, with soya bean meal leaving a ration with a higher energy value compared to one based on rapeseed meal.

Lamb mortality was also addressed, with Joanne Conington from the Scottish Rural College in Edinburgh highlighting birth weight as the biggest influence on survival rates.

She stressed the importance of selecting replacement ewes based on ease of lambing and maternal qualities.

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