The majority of the breeding flock has been assembled at UCD Lyons Farm, and newly-purchased stock are undergoing their quarantine period to minimise the risk of introducing animal health issues into the flock.
We would be particularly concerned around anthelmintic resistant parasites, contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) and sheep scab. CODD is a challenging lameness condition that requires specialised treatment, and this is a situation where discussion with your vet is essential, as the traditional treatments to control foot rot are ineffective in the treatment of CODD.
This is a condition you do not want on your sheep farm. In my experience, it is the most difficult to control of all lameness conditions.
Newly-purchased animals received a quarantine drench upon arrival at the farm, they were then turned out to dirty pasture and will remain separated from the main flock for six weeks.
Our recent experience of Covid-19 has brought biosecurity and vaccination to the fore in the mind of the general public, but farmers have been implementing these procedures for many years.
All breeding females will also be vaccinated for toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion.
This week we will once again body condition score the entire flock. They were last scored approximately one month ago, and with roughly six weeks to go until mating we still have time to address any ewes that are underconditioned, but from the last assessment ewes are on track for our target of 3.5-3.75 BCS.
If farms have a deficit of grass then there is an advantage to be achieved by targeting the portion of the flock in poorer condition. These are the animals that have the most potential to respond to improved nutrition supplied by giving them priority access to grass. Grass growth at Lyons is approximately 55kg on the sheep platform now, and we have a large portion of our lambs on Redstart, so there is plentiful grass for the ewes at the moment. This will allow us to separate a portion of the flock if we need to do so.
With lamb price holding well, there is an incentive to keep lambs moving and to free up grass for the ewe flock. Last week we slaughtered 43 lambs from the Lyons flock.
They achieved an average carcass weight of 21.2kg and returned a price of €132. These lambs were finished across a range of systems, including grass only, multispecies swards and Redstart. Growth rate on the grass only swards, is running at 150 grams per day, and the other two swards are at 280-300 grams per day. If either Redstart or multispecies swards have a place in an induvial farm system then they will deliver animal performance results.
The decision around the economics and their role will need to be made at an individual farm level.
Prof Tommy Boland is a lecturer in sheep production at Lyons Farm, UCD; @Pallastb tommy.boland; @ucd.ie