While it's time to evaluate worm control measures on the farm

Anthelmintic resistance can reduce lamb performance even on farms where the best grassland practices are in place

Philip Higgins
Philip Higgins

Tom Coll

Weaning took place on the Higgins farm between June 22 and June 25 when lambs bred from mature ewes were 15 weeks and lambs from hoggets were 12 weeks of age.

"I normally wean the hoggets around the same time as the ewes to allow them more time to recover body condition prior to mating and to batch all the lambs into two main grazing groups." says Philip Higgins.

Ewes are dried off on previously grazed paddocks for seven days and then split into three groups.

Ewes in good condition at weaning are used to graze out paddocks following the lambs.

Philip will have three batches of sheep each grazing a six-paddock block. Plastic stakes and four rows of ploywire are used to sub-divide natural field boundaries and the silage ground.

Lambs over 34kg at weaning, to be finished off grass, will graze ahead of the main flock of ewes.

Lambs will graze covers of 7-9cm and leave the paddock after two to four days at a cover of 6cm where the ewes will then graze to a residual of 4 cm.

The second batch of lambs under 34kg at weaning will graze ahead of ewes, but will be fed 0.4kg of concentrate per lamb in troughs.

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Hoggets and thin ewes will make up the third grazing group and be given access to high quality grass up until mating.

Philip may have to move ewes between groups depending on their body condition as the year progresses.

"Every year brings something new," he says. "This year, I made silage in early May, something I never even contemplated doing before."

Removing excess grass early enabled Philip to keep grass quality under control.

Paddocks were cut on May 4 and May 11 and the main crop of pit silage was harvested on May 22. A further 8ha of paddocks will be cut this week to reduce days ahead to 15.

This should yield around five bales per acre of top quality leafy silage. Over 50pc of the farm will have been cut this year which is an aid in maintaining young leafy swards and to maximise lamb performance.

A plentiful supply of young leafy grass will go a long way to maximising the performance of weaned lambs.

However, health issues, especially parasite burden, mineral deficiency and lameness can dramatically reduce lamb performance even where top class grassland management practises exist on the farm.

ANTHELMINTIC RESISTANCE

The unseen and unmonitored accelerating rate of the development of anthelmintic resistance on Irish farms should be a concern to all sheep farmers.

In 2013, it was found that 49pc of anthelmintic treatments administered as part of STAP Task 3 were not fully effective (i.e. did not kill > 95pc of the worms).

While it is not possible to confirm this is solely attributed to anthelmintic resistance, it is in agreement with previous Teagasc trials where the white drenches were the least effective, followed by the yellow drenches and then the clear drenches.

So where do we stand in 2019? When we are dealing with anthelmintic resistance one thing is clear - the situation will not have improved.

The results were compiled from farmers who carried out a drench test as part of the sheep technology adoption programme.

A batch faecal sample taken 14 days after dosing with a white or clear drench and seven days after using a yellow drench will give an indication of the efficacy and correct use of the drug.

A more detailed follow-up may be necessary based on the findings. Philip will carry out a drench test this summer and will continue to dose only when necessary based on faecal sample results as was the case last year.

Lambs on the Higgins farm are dosed with a mineral drench containing cobalt, zinc and selenium at three-week intervals.

All sheep are routinely footbathed at least every two weeks in an indoor zinc sulphate batch footbath.

The footbath holds the same number of sheep as the race which allows sufficient standing time for the sheep in the bath when Philip is carrying out other tasks with sheep in the race.

Philip admits that this happened by accident rather than by design but he is very pleased with the way it works.

FIRST DRAFT

The first draft of 27 lambs made an average of €112.40 and were slaughtered at the Irish Country Meats plant in Navan through the Sligo/Leitrim Quality Lamb Producer Group. Philip will draft lambs on a weekly basis based on weight, conformation, fat cover and expected kill out percentage.

Meanwhile, on May 22, Philip has introduced a third enterprise onto the farm when 60 February-born Jersey heifers arrived to be contract reared and returned to the dairy farmer in late October 2020 for calving at two years old.

"They are means of increasing stocking rate and overall farm profitability and will hopefully integrate well with the grazing practices workload involved in managing a 500 ewe mid-season lambing flock." says Philip

Tom Coll is a Teagasc advisor based in Mohill, Co Leitrim

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