2022 lambing: Reports suggest there is renewed interest in early lambing systems stemming from the fact that early lamb producers had a good spring, with the market for once holding strong and allowing producers to get the majority of their lamb crop drafted at high prices.

Looking at the 2022 calendar, Easter Sunday falls on 17 April while the Ramadan festival starts on 1 April and ends on 30 April.

This is a role reversal of this year where Easter Sunday fell first on 4 April and Ramadan started on 12 April.

While it is always hard to predict market performance from one year to the next, the fact that the two festivals are falling again in such close proximity will boost demand for sheepmeat at this time.

Looking at breeding timelines, allowing a 14-week period from lambing at the end of January to drafting for 1 April would require ewes to be bred from mid-August onwards. An earlier lambing date of the end of December/start of January coincides with a late July/start of August breeding date.

While the success of sponging ewes is quite variable and represents a significant cost, it remains the most reliable method when breeding well out of the natural season or carrying out artificial insemination.

The preparation of ewes can have a big influence on its success. Ewes should be weaned ideally greater than four to six weeks pre-sponging while having ewes in general good health, on a good plane of nutrition and at the optimum body condition score of 3.5 plus will also greatly help.

Remember also that additional ram power will be required, with a typical ratio of one ram to eight ewes or lower where ram lambs are being used.

Kill-out variability: The kill-out of lambs will typically drop by 1% to 2% post-weaning. This should be taken into account for the last draft pre-weaning as it may be more beneficial to draft lambs at a lower liveweight than hold them until after weaning. Young fleshed lambs and creep-fed lambs will kill out on average from 48% to 50%, dropping back to 46% to 47% for older lambs or those finished on average-quality grass. While post-weaning fleshed grass-fed lambs will generally kill out from 45% to 46%.

Weighing scales calibration: Many later mid-season lambing flocks in particular will have recently dusted down or are in the process of pulling the weighing scales out from storage. It is a good exercise where a scales has not been used for a significant period of time, or equally where it is in frequent use and is being transported to a number of sites, to calibrate it to ensure that it is working correctly.

There are a number of areas where faults can occur with the weighing mechanism, such as scales or load bars, while there are also sometimes issues in a weighing crate with damage restricting free movement of the crate/cage.

The scales should be calibrated by placing an item or items with a known weight on them to see if this tallies with the reading. A useful example is using mineral lick buckets or a couple of bags of concentrates.

Items should be used that will at least weigh the maximum expected weight of sheep and they should also be tested at various positions in the crate.