Tom Staunton: The best of our pedigree lambs are gaining up to 460g daily

Tom Staunton

We are continuing to keep track of how our lambs are growing - and in ­particular our pedigree Bluefaced Leicester lambs. They were weighed last week while we had them in for a white wormer and a trace element drench.

The best of the lambs were growing at 460g/head/day while the worst were at 250g/head/day. The worst performers were triplet lambs that had gotten a slight setback. Overall, the bunch averaged 350g/head/day and I'm hoping they will push on over the next few weeks. They have been moved to ground that was reseeded last year - a small field that I grew typhon in last year.

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The lambs have access to this through a creep gate, allowing them the best of grass. My aim is to keep records and build up a database so I can keep improving the growth rates of the lambs year on year.

I spread cut sward fertiliser on the silage ground, with the aim to cut this the first week of June. It has been grazed by ewes and lambs earlier in the spring, followed by dry ewe hoggets who grazed the silage ground relatively tight. This was done to ensure that any older grass and any dead roots from the winter have been eaten and that all new shoots will give the silage we like for the ewes over the winter. It is an area we have improved on in recent years.

This has come on the back of housing the ewes and becoming more aware of how important the silage quality is and how it can help reduce the amount of concentrates needed pre-lambing to help reduce costs.

I have also spread Physiolith soil conditioner on some heavy ground to help build nutrients and lift pH.

I used it last year and have seen some response. I also aerated this ground last year, too and the combination seems to have worked well to date.

All the March-born lambs on the farm have also received a white wormer and Optimise mineral drench. Lambs also received a vaccine for clostridial diseases. This should keep them right for another while.

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Mineral supplementation of lambs pre-weaning is one of the options I took for the sheep welfare scheme, but is something I was doing as part of a health programme on the farm for years.

My son Tom went to New Zealand for a few weeks and visited a sheep and cattle farm with 15,000 sheep and 150 Angus cows. Avalon Genetics ran the farm and the owners gave him an insight in how things are done over there. It was interesting to see how that farm has worked for the past 30 years, selecting genetics and traits to reduce scouring and create sheep that are resistant to worms.

Great work has been done to reduce lameness with a strict culling policy. All sheep are performance recorded, and growth rates have improved over the years. There is now plans to add some Merino genetics to improve the wool quality with the aim of having a good factory lamb as well as a good quality fleece of wool to shear before selling to the factory. This would significantly add to the lambs' value.

Thomas Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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