Grass utilisation: Recent heavy rainfall has reduced grass utilisation and is creating challenges in grazing heavy covers which are present on many farms.
Where underfoot conditions are tricky and grass is getting soiled then it will generally not be possible to graze out these swards in one grazing without affecting performance.
As such there may be no option but to graze these swards for a period, move sheep on and return when the sward has had a chance to freshen up.
If availing of this option, it is important to keep on track with closing targets.
The Teagasc closing plan for a flock lambing in early March and achieving a rest period of 120 days on swards is to have 20% of the farm closed by the end of October, 40% by mid-November, 60% by the end of November and 80% by mid-December.
The dry matter in grass has also reduced significantly, which will depress lamb performance. For lambs with a short-term finishing target, introducing concentrate supplementation will increase dry matter intake and help underpin performance. Feeding at a rate of 300g to 500g will boost performance above 100g daily on good-quality leafy swards while where ground conditions have deteriorated or grass quality is poor supplementation rates may need to be increased above this level. This will be the case for aged ram lambs.
Lameness issues: Heavy rainfall and grazing of swards with a high grass cover is giving rise to an increased incidence of scald in ewes and rams. Foot bathing will typically bring scald under control but a balance needs to be achieved between preventing problems from escalating and minimising disruption during the breeding season. Where sheep are being handled try and keep them as settled as possible. Take care also to ensure that it is scald that is causing problems and not footrot or CODD as this will require a different treatment programme incorporating antibiotic treatment.
Where rams are affected, it is important to try and address issues quickly. Individual spot treatment with a suitable foot spray is an option. It is also important to observe such rams to ensure that they are still up to the task and not impeded in their activity. Where normal activity is affected or rams are showing any signs of illness then be on the guard for possible fertility issues.
Raddling rams will identify fertility issues while switching of rams between groups or batching of rams is a good practice in helping to reduce the effect of ram subfertility or infertility.
Clean livestock policy: Inclement weather is also raising the topic of the clean livestock policy, with lambs coming under greater scrutiny. Factories will have greater options to carry out remedial work such as belly clipping where the fleece is dry. Transporting lambs with a wet fleece presents significant challenges in avoiding fleeces becoming heavily soiled.
Where lambs are grazing low dry matter swards and are loose in the dung it is worth fasting for a period, housing in advance of transport or temporarily switching lambs away from lush, low dry matter swards. Drafting lambs when dry and ensuring the floor of trailers are bedded with an appropriate material to soak urine and faeces will also help. Sticking to the appropriate stocking rate and using dividers where appropriate to segregate lambs is also important.