'After 12 weeks, lambs are little more than company for the ewe'
Sheep farmers have been warned to be wary of the temptation to delay weaning lambs in a bid to boost liveweight gain.
Speaking to farmers at an open day on the farm of John Curley in Four Roads, Co Roscommon Teagasc advisor Damian Costello said that ewes that are rearing twins hit peak milk yield around three to four weeks of age.
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"Now they won't go dry after that. But their milk yield will plateau.
"When lambs get to 10-12 weeks of age they're little more to the ewe than company.
"They're getting very little milk and they're eating a fair amount of grass.
Costello said that farmers sometimes have the temptation to delay weaning on the basis that the lambs will get a little bit of a setback.
While he said that there will be some fall off in growth rates in the short term, the most important thing farmers should focus on is getting good grass in front of the lambs.
"Weaning allows you to give the lambs the best possible grass available.
"An ideal situation is that if you can get the lambs into good quality grass. Rather than forcing the lambs to graze it out, you can send in the ewes to do that.
"It has a very positive impact on lamb performance as they are grazing fresh material all the time and they're not having to work hard to get the last bit out of it," he said.
He advised farmers to allow the lambs to graze covers down to about 5-6cm and then move them onto a fresh paddock letting the ewes do the mopping up.
However, he warned farmers against putting too much pressure on the ewes.
"I'm not saying to put them onto bare ground.
"There was a time when people felt that once the ewe is weaned that you could forget about her until a few weeks before mating.
"That is not the case. Farmers need to access their ewes regularly to ensure they have the right body condition," he said.
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