Supplementing early lambers: Grass growth on closed paddocks has been well above normal levels in recent months and has underpinned the development of good grass reserves on areas closed early.

This should provide opportunities to get early lambing ewes and their lambs outdoors quicker but this will be limited in the short term by inclement weather.

It is important where ewes will be retained indoors for a significant period to offer sufficient concentrate supplementation to ensure milk yield is not compromised and that ewes do not have to overly rely on utilising body condition reserves to meet the large jump in energy requirements.

Twin-suckling ewes in good body condition and offered ad-lib access to moderate-quality silage (68-70+DMD) will require 1.2kg to 1.5kg concentrate supplementation daily.

There are generally few ewes lacking condition but where this is the case or forage is of lower quality then supplementation levels should be increased to 1.5kg to 1.7kg.

Single-suckling ewes in good body condition will require 0.6kg to 0.8kg concentrates, with this again rising to 1kg or higher where forage quality is poor or for ewes lacking condition.

The feeding levels described above can typically be reduced by 0.2kg to 0.3kg where ewes and lambs are retained indoors for a short period post-lambing.

Feeding levels should be gradually increased with sharp increases in the immediate period post-lambing avoided.

When early lambing ewes and lambs are turned outdoors, they will benefit from a low level of feeding for a couple of weeks to improve dry matter intake.

The rate of supplementation will depend on weather and available grass supplies.

Clostridial disease vaccination: Late January and February lambing flocks on a clostridial disease vaccination programme will now be approaching their window for administering a booster vaccine. It is important to note the manufacturer’s recommended time frame for administering the vaccine.

The advice for most products is to vaccinate four-to-six weeks pre-lambing but there are some with a wider window.

The level of maternally derived antibodies in colostrum will be influenced by optimum timing of administration. If there is a significant spread in lambing then it is advisable to split the vaccination date.

Where sheep are not on a vaccination programme or it is greater than 12 months since their last treatment then a primary course of two treatments will be required.

Sheep Welfare Scheme: There have been a few queries of late on a number of aspects of the Sheep Welfare Scheme.

Year five of the scheme runs from 1 February 2021 to 31 January 2022. Some farmers plan annually to trade cull ewes following submission of their sheep census (31 December 2021) or following scanning.

The reference number, or number of ewes you wish to get paid on (if this is lower than the reference number), should be maintained until the end of the scheme year (31 January 2022).

The Department of Agriculture terms and conditions for year five of the scheme state that ewe lambs can be used to replace any shortfall in ewe numbers but that these will not be deemed eligible until they reach 12 months of age.

Approval has been granted to roll the scheme over for another year and it is likely that an automatic rollover mechanism will apply similar to that which was in place for year five.