Drafting lambs: The ending of Ramadan and sharp falloff in hogget throughput has created more appetite in the last week for spring lambs.
The experience of recent years has taught us some important lessons including the fact that market performance can fluctuate greatly at this stage of the year.
And that keeping lambs moving at optimum carcase weights and avoiding surplus free meat entering the market will help keep a better floor under demand.
There is also the fact that optimum carcases give more options for further processing or to service the carcase trade.
These lessons should be borne in mind at this stage of the year with lambs kept moving once fit for slaughter.
Factory agents report spring lambs generally achieving positive slaughter performance at present, with many producers willing to put more feed into lambs at the higher prices.
Young, well-fed lambs coming off an intensive creep-based diet are killing in the region of 49% to 50%.
Young lambs which have been finished off grass and restricted creep feeding are typically killing in the region of 47% to 49% while aged lambs which have endured a difficult spring and achieved lower levels of performance are killing in the region of 45% to 46% upwards.
Account should be taken of these kill-outs when assessing the liveweight at which to draft lambs, while this information should also be used to determine the most suitable outlet.
A number of factories are paying to 20.5kg carcase weight, with plants servicing the wholesale trade 0.5kg higher.
A vibrant mart trade for butcher and wholesale-type lambs should also be considered for lambs killing into heavier weights. The fat cover of lambs should also be taken into account in any drafting decisions.
The quality of hoggets is becoming increasingly variable. Care should be taken in particular with fat scores and again flockowners should weigh up if the factory or mart is the most suitable outlet.
Grass tetany: There have been increased reports in recent days of a greater incidence of grass tetany. The spike in cases is likely linked to last week’s lift in growth rates followed by a return of inclement weather and sub-zero temperatures this week.
The risk of grass tetany will not disappear for at least another few weeks and as such you should continue to ensure that ewes are best placed to deal with a disease challenge.
Access to high-mag lick buckets should suffice in most cases but there may be cases such as where ewes are being transferred on to lush reseeded swards for example, or where ewes continue to face significant nutritional stress, where concentrate supplementation or the administering of magnesium boluses may be required.
Yearling hoggets: The current inclement weather is particularly challenging for yearling hoggets rearing lambs.
These sheep will already be up against it in terms of performing satisfactorily during lactation and meeting weight and body condition score targets for the subsequent breeding season.
Twin-suckling hoggets should continue to receive concentrate supplementation at a rate of 0.5kg daily or higher where grass supplies are limiting. These ewes should also be monitored closely in the same manner as mature ewes rearing triplet lambs.
Where it is apparent that lambs are struggling, then one lamb should be removed for artificial rearing.