It pays to weigh
At UCD Lyons Farm, the first-cut silage has been harvested on the research and main sheep grazing blocks.
Early silage is important to ensure a high-quality winter feed for the ewes, and in light of current and projected feed costs, this high-quality forage is going to be of even greater value this year.
Weather conditions for silage making have been a bit hit and miss so far this year.
Following on from a very wet February, March, April and May have all been online or slightly below the long-term rainfall average for this part of the country, and with higher than average temperatures (+2C), grass growth has increased dramatically since my last article.
For the week to May 26, average grass growth rates on the experimental sheep platform was 98kg DM per ha per day, with the multi-species swards growing about 15pc more grass than the perennial ryegrass sward over this period. As part of our routine research activities, lambs are weighed frequently.
Over the period of five weeks to 10 weeks post-lambing, our lambs had an average growth rate of 300 grams per day, with the lambs on the multispecies sward growing about 30pc faster than the lambs on the perennial ryegrass.
This overall group of lambs were showing some signs of scouring a couple of weeks ago and a faecal egg test showed some Nematodirus eggs, suggesting that our initial Nematodirus treatment may have been a little too early, so we treated for a second time.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t depend on faecal egg counting to identify Nematodirus burdens.
I am often told that it is easy for us as a research farm to weight lambs, but it is not practical at farm level.
I would counter this by saying it is equally important for farmers to have a measure of their flock growth rate as this is one of the key factors driving on-farm efficiency.
I am not suggesting each farmer follows the in-depth protocols in place on our research farms, but it is useful and important that there are some efforts made to capture data on lamb performance.
The sheep will be in the yards for routine events such as Nematodirus drenching, foot bathing, maybe shearing and weaning.
If a subset of lambs is identified at turnout with a tag or raddle mark, then this subset or sentinel group can be weighed each time the lambs come through the yard to get an indication of flock performance.
If lambs are on track or above, then this will provide peace of mind and if they are below targets, at least the problem has been identified and it will allow you to address the issue.
The young lamb is the most efficient converter of feed to nutrients on your farm, so why not capture this potential?