Preparation for next year's lamb crop starts at weaning

File photo
File photo
John Large

John Large

Last year we were weaning early to conserve what grass we had for the lambs; this year we waited until last week to wean any lambs. We had plenty of grass so we left them with their mothers for an extra two weeks. We got some that were fit to kill and these went straight off with their mothers to the factory. The rest were divided into two groups according to their weight and will get the best grass we have, with ewes grazing out after them.

We picked off any ewes that gave trouble at lambing and any that got mastitis when rearing their lambs.

The best of these will be sold off as soon as they have dried up after weaning. The rest of the culls will be sold as soon as they become fit.

We have to go through all the ewes, culling by age, any with lost teeth, any that have only milk at one side, ewes with bad feet and ewes that are in very poor condition.

Generally most of the ewes seem to be in good condition so we will keep them on a maintenance diet for the next two months and then give them plenty of grass before mating.

Ewes that are thin will be grazed with next year's replacement ewe-lambs to get them up in weight before mating.

It is a slow process to get ewes up in body condition as one unit in condition score equates to 12kg in body weight.

Condition score at mating is most important and will have a big effect on the number of ewes that hold to first service, it also has a direct impact on lambs reared per ewe put to the ram.

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So if a ewe can put on 1kg per week on good grass it will take about three months to get from 2.5 at weaning to 3.5 before mating.

While having ewes in good body condition prior to mating will have a positive impact on subsequent litter size, it also provides a reserve of body tissue which can be mobilised if required during the following pregnancy and lactation.

Ewes that are in good body condition are also at a lower risk of going down with twin-lamb-disease during late pregnancy.

They also produce larger volumes of colostrum, produce lambs that have greater viability and have condition in the form of tissue reserve to mobilise if necessary during early lactation which means they can milk off their back.

The target condition score for us at mating will be all ewes over 3.5. The most important thing to remember is preparation for next year's lamb crop starts at weaning. Divide your ewes and start to get them putting on weight as soon as possible after weaning.

We got our grass-seed sown on June 20, about four weeks after spraying.

With the cost of re-seeding as high as €300 per acre, this includes spraying off, fertiliser and lime, contractor charges and cost of seed. It is expensive, so the next job will be to use a post-emergence spray to control seeding docks and other weeds.

Then we will graze at a low cover to encourage the grass seedlings to tiller out and the new sward to thicken up.

Keeping the new grass well eaten for the first year has an impact on how long the new grass can survive in the sward, so it is very important not to cut for silage in the first year when you use varieties that are for grazing.

It has been very hard to manage grass for the last few weeks, with growth so good we had to make more silage than we will need for next winter.

We even had to cut one paddock that was cut in May a second time as it was gone too strong for grazing.

We also made plenty of hay of varying quality but all baled in very good conditions, so it can be left in the shed for an extra year and it will not matter.

You never know how things will pan out. Last year we fed more hay from July to September than we did during the winter.

Indo Farming

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