Lambing date has been pushed back at Arnage since the beginning of the programme. We now aim to start lambing the first week of April. As we lamb outdoors, this gives us a better chance of decent weather. The days are also longer, which makes the whole job easier.
We have changed ewe type to better suit the outdoor lambing system. The last of the Suffolk ewes went away this autumn.
They were in very good condition and we averaged £90/head, which we were more than happy with.
The Mule ewe that we are now using is not going to achieve the same cull value as the Suffolk ewe, but this is a compromise we are willing to take for the Mule’s hardiness and mothering ability.
Selling the last of the Suffolks meant we needed to buy in more replacements. In total, we purchased 114 gimmers at an average price of £122/head.
This led us to think about the cost of ewe depreciation during her lifetime on the farm. Buying at £122 and selling culls at £90 leaves a depreciation of £32. If we divide this over four crops of lambs, with our current weaning rate of 140%, this is a cost of £7.62/lamb reared by that ewe.
Once we have Mule ewes culled we could see the cull value drop to around £75/head.
This will increase the depreciation cost/lamb to £8.39 at the same rearing rate.
The temptation may be to keep these ewes for a fifth and even sixth crop to reduce depreciation costs
Our goal is to wean more lambs/ewe to the tup. If we can get this up to an achievable 170% this will dilute the depreciation costs to £6.91/lamb over four crops.
The temptation may be to keep these ewes for a fifth and even sixth crop to reduce depreciation costs (£5.53 and £4.61 respectively).
However, what will more than likely happen in this situation is a higher mortality rate and a lower cull value – increasing the depreciation costs overall.
Looking at the depreciation costs in Table 1, what really hit home was the cost of ewes that only last one or two years on-farm.
These ewes depreciation cost is anywhere between 20% and 50% of the fat lamb value.
The same exercise can be carried out with tups. This year we purchased in three tups at an average cost of £540. Provided they last four years and cover on average 40 ewes/year, and we achieve a cull value of £80, at our current weaning percentage of 140% this leaves us a tup cost of £2.05/lamb reared.
However, if that tup only lasts one year, it will cost us £8.21/lamb reared – showing the importance of tup survivability.
Currently we have just over 130 of this year’s lambs still on-farm.
We will be going through them later today and hope to have another draw from them.
At this stage we are going to introduce feeders to the remainder to try and get them over the line.
While we like to do as much as we can from grass alone, there comes a point when the remaining grass on the farm is more valuable for tupping ewes than for fattening lambs.
Elsewhere on the farm, cattle will start to come in for weaning in the next fortnight to three weeks, depending on weather conditions.
We did lose a cow to staggers a fortnight ago. Since this, we have high magnesium buckets out with all the cows and we are also feeding straw.
We will get all the animals pregnancy scanned once they are in and separate out any barren cows
We probably should have had this out sooner, however we have been going straight from harvest to try to get winter cereals in the ground.
All the while we have all been knocked for six with a bad cold and chest infection – not ideal for this time of year.
We will get all the animals pregnancy scanned once they are in and separate out any barren cows. Most of the cows are in good condition so we are hopeful any empty cows will be fit for sale this side of Christmas.
The stubble turnip trial that we carried out with four different drills at Arnage is now seven weeks in the ground.
Establishment has been good right across the plots. There is some variation in both plant numbers and size. An update video is available online at www.farmersjournal.co.uk
On the sheep side of things, a downside to breeding ewe lambs is a prolonged lambing period, as they are typically slower to conceive.
Research work points to a 35-day mating period being required to achieve first mating for 90% of a ewe lamb flock.
Due to ewe lambs having a lower pregnancy rate per oestrus than mature ewes, this typically results in a 70% conception rate after a 35-day mating period, as standard.
The ram effect can be used to compact the mating season and subsequent lambing period. For the ram effect to work, ewes and ewe lambs should ideally be out of sight and smell of rams for the previous month.
The timetable includes introducing teaser or aproned rams on day one. Rams can be seprated from ewes by a fence, as long as they are within sight and smelling distance of the ewes.
Teasers can then be removed after 24 to 48 hours.
The introduction of adult rams will trigger a silent heat (not detected by rams) in most ewes that are not already cycling within 36 hours, while a proportion will have a second silent heat after six days.
Ewes will cycle approximately 17 days after the final silent heat giving rise to two peak mating periods – at day 18 after rams were first introduced and day 23.
It is recommended, however, to introduce fertile rams to ewes at day 14 to allow for any variation in cycle length and also to pick up any sheep which are already cyclic at time of ram introduction.
Where lambing occurs indoors, using a raddle can aid housing decisions. Changing the raddle colour every seven days allows you to batch ewes at housing time according to lambing date.
Start with a light colour raddle and work to darker colours. One option is to start with yellow, followed by green, red and finish with black.