One of the potentially biggest causes of poor flock performance at lambing is the management of ewe nutrition during late pregnancy.
Nutrition during late gestation has been shown to influence ewe body reserve mobilisation, colostrum production, lamb birth weight, lamb vigour and lamb survival.
Where any of the aforementioned are negatively affected, the performance of the flock at lambing will be below its potential.
Late pregnancy is typically defined as the last six to eight weeks pre-lambing during which time approximately 80pc of foetal growth takes place.
Dietary formulation during this time is challenging as the rapid growth of the foetus reduces feed intake potential leading to the necessity to use concentrate supplementation.
On the Richardson farm mature ewes scanned this year with an average litter size of 1.90, with 98pc of the ewes scanned in lamb.
Lambing should be compact as no ewes were raddle marked after the third week of the mating season. Clifford puts this down to the use of the ram effect and the condition of the ewes at mating.
All ewes were in body condition score of 3.5 or better at mating. Twenty-seven ewe lambs were put to the ram in 2016 and were not scanned at the date of writing this article. Ewes are due to lamb on February 24 and have been given a clostridial vaccine during the last week of January. Lamb birth weights in 2016 were 5.9kgs, 4.4kgs and 3.6kgs for singles, twin and triplet born lambs respectively. This year Clifford aims to increase the birth weights of the twin and triplet born lambs to 4kgs and 5kgs. All ewes were housed on January 6 and were in good body condition score -- all above 3.5.
Twin and triplet bearing ewes have been fed concentrates from six weeks prior to lambing -- starting at 0.3kgs per day.
Three weeks out from lambing this has been introduced to singles at 0.3kgs per day and increased to 0.5kgs for doubles and 0.7kgs for triplet bearing ewes. Silage is of average quality 69 DMD and 11pc protein.
The daily concentrate allowance will be increased to 0.4kgs for singles,1kg for twins and 1.2kgs for triplet bearing ewes. The twins and triplets are fed twice daily.
Teagasc research has shown that for every 0.5kgs increase in lamb birth weight, weaning weight will be increased by 1.7kgs which equates to 3.4kgs extra live weight for a ewe rearing twins.
A lamb growing at 170gr per day after weaning will take 10 days to make up the difference in weight. The increase in lamb birth weight will also increase lamb survivability especially with triplet born lambs.
The ration fed for the last three weeks of pregnancy contains 20pc soya bean meal which when fed to the twin bearing ewes at 1kg/hd/day will deliver 100gr of soya per lamb.
The ewes carrying singles will be given an extra 100gr of soya per head per day to ensure adequate colostrum supply as most of these ewes will be used for fostering triplet lambs.
Based on scanning results ewe lambs carrying singles will be fed 0.4kgs of concentrates up to lambing, while ewe lambs carrying doubles will be fed the same as the mature ewes carrying triplets.
The ewe lambs are well grown and all over 60kgs.
Approximately 40pc of the farm has been closed since mid -November and has greened up well in recent weeks.
Clifford plans to spread 23 units of urea in the next two weeks dependent on weather and ground conditions. This will be followed by a bag of 18:6:12 after the first grazing.
Ewes will not be supplemented with concentrates when they go to grass, provided there is adequate grass available to satisfy maximum intakes.
Ewes were dosed for fluke with a closantel based product at housing, this will be effective at killing mature fluke and immature fluke up to six weeks.
The remaining fluke picked up prior to housing will be six weeks at turnout so the ewes will be dosed again for fluke after lambing.
This year Clifford plans to change to a rafoxanide based product, effective against fluke up to six weeks.
This should ensure that the ewes are free from fluke going to grass provided that no resistance to the products used exists on the farm.
Clifford plans to keep a close eye on the lambs from three weeks of age on as there is flock history of coccidiosis on the farm. All lambs will be treated with a toltrazurul based product from about four weeks of age.
Tom Coll is a Teagasc drystock and business advisor based in Mohill. Co Leitrim email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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It's set to be a busy lambing season for Clifford Richardson as he looks to increase output , reports Tom Coll.