East-west divide on lamb crop as drought factor hits numbers

Michael Gottstein of Teagasc
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Scanning results in ewe flocks are showing a significant east-west divide as the impact of last summer's drought is reflected in this spring's lamb crop.

While unusually high numbers of twins and triplets are reported from scans in the west, results for early-lambing flocks in the east are very disappointing. However, an average crop of lambs is forecast for mid-season flocks in the midlands, south and east.

Roscommon-based scanner, Dominic Black, said he had seen some "exceptional results" from scans of lowland and hill flocks in the west.

Mr Black said most crossbred flocks in the west had averaged close to 2.0 lambs per ewe, with just a few scanning under 1.8 lambs to the ewe.

"There were very few singles and a lot more triplets," Mr Black said.

Although scanning of hill flocks has just kicked off over the last 10 days, the Castlerea native said a lot of flocks are averaging 1.5 lambs to the ewe this year, where results usually came in around 1.1 or 1.2 lambs to the ewe.

In contrast, Mr Black said early flocks in the midlands averaged around 1.4 lambs to the ewe. Poor results for early flocks were also reported in the southeast.

Wicklow-based scanner, Phil O'Gorman, said February lambing flocks that usually averaged 1.8 lambs to the ewe were closer to 1.6 lambs this year.

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However, Mr O'Gorman said March and April lambing flocks were still averaging 1.8-1.9 lambs per ewe, or close to normal levels, although there were more empty ewes this year.

Hill flocks in the east are averaging 1.3 lambs to the ewe, Mr O'Gorman said.

The low lamb crop in early flocks has been blamed on the drought conditions faced by farmers in much of the east and south during the September breeding season.

Indeed, Michael Gottstein of Teagasc pointed out that the drought did not resolve itself in parts of the east and southeast until October.

Grass supplies

In contrast, grass supplies in the west remained strong throughout most of last year.

Mr Gottstein predicted that the overall number of lambs born this year is likely to hold at around 3.2 million, with increased numbers in the west balanced by lower output in the east.

The INHFA urged farmers to scan their flocks to establish the likely extent of the lamb crop. The association said a high proportion of twin lambs would be a cause of concern for hill flock owners, particularly if there was a hard spring.

Scanning results in Leinster down but 'exceptional' in lowland and hill flocks

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