Cobalt deficiency

There are certain instances where mineral supplementation is vital and there are others where their use is unnecessary. Some farms have identified what minerals are deficient through a process of blood sampling or other laboratory analysis. The one mineral which many Irish flocks benefit from using is cobalt, with cobalt deficiency a significant issue which generally emerges from July on but this can differ depending on the mineral status on the farm.

Characteristic signs include lambs performing below target or losing condition despite on a relatively good level of nutrition, while common signs of advanced problems are lambs starting to pine away, going dry in the wool and in cases experiencing the skin on their ears becoming scaly or scabby, with skin flaking away.

Veterinary advice highlights that lambs require about 1mg of cobalt per head per day. Sheep do not have an ability to store cobalt and therefore supplementation will be required typically every two weeks where administering an oral drench. Where labour is limited, this can be possibly pushed out on some farms to three weeks before it will have a detrimental effect on performance. Again, knowing the risk profile on your farm will help inform this decision.

Other common options include administering boluses or feeding meal with an adequate mineral inclusion level. Adding cobalt to water may also be an option but in this scenario you need to be confident lambs will be drinking regularly.

Faecal egg counts

This week’s sheep feature is essential reading for flockowners in combating the growing challenge of anthelmintic resistance. While we may often view it as an issue that is not affecting our farm or only affects farms with large numbers, the reality is it is being identified as an issue at an alarming rate irrespective of flock size.

Reports this week indicate some farmers recording a spike in worms in faecal egg counts (FECs). This is most apparent on farms which have experienced negligible or low levels of rainfall up until recently and is worth keeping in mind if you have not carried out any FECs recently.

Post-weaning management

Traditional thinking on managing ewes post weaning often included advice to restrict the intake of ewes to a degree likely to bring out a loss in body condition score. The logic behind the practice was that ewes could be transferred on to a rising plane of nutrition in the runup to lambing and reap the reproductive rewards.

Excessively limiting the nutritional intake of ewes post-weaning to a point where ewes start to lose condition is a poor use of feed resources and can in many cases have negative effects on performance. Even greater benefits from having ewes on a rising plane of nutrition in the runup to breeding can be achieved from a point where ewes are coming off a maintenance diet.

Therefore, once ewes have been dried off sufficiently, those in adequate body condition should be used to clean out paddocks and have enough herbage available to consume in the region of 1kg to 1.1kg grass dry matter. Aged and young ewes lacking flesh should be given preferential treatment where required. These ewes can be run with lambs being finished off grass once weaned to reduce the number of grazing groups.