Safeguarding lamb performance

The performance of lambs becomes increasingly reliant on the quality and quantity of feed offered with age. Grass intake increases sharply from 0.8kg dry matter (DM) per head daily in week 12 to 1kg DM in week 13 and 1.2kg in week 14 and thereafter.

At the same time, ewe intake is falling from 2.3-3kg DM in the weeks pre weaning, to 1kg DM post weaning.

This is why it is critical to ensure quality feed is available to lambs in both the pre and post-weaning periods. Growth has been variable over the last week or so, but in general it has been positive and there are relatively good supplies present on farms considering the volumes of fertiliser applied.

It will become increasingly challenging to manage grass quality in the coming weeks as grass starts to head out seasonally. This is where the benefits of optimum grazing practices such as splitting paddocks, forward creep grazing and not forcing animals to graze out poor-quality swards come into their own.

Adhering to pre and post-grazing sward heights is also central to maximising lamb performance. The general guide at this time of year for rotational grazing systems is to enter swards at a pre-grazing height of 7-9cm (1,000kg DM/ha to 1,500kg DM/ha) and exit at a post-grazing sward height of 4-4.5cm.

While it is not an easy prospect maintaining a regular fertiliser application programme, even a low rate will underpin growth rates and grass supplies and help maintain grass quality.

While early for many producers, it is useful to start considering grassland management practices over the month of June to ensure a supply of top-quality grass is available for lambs post-weaning.

As touched on already this may take more planning this year given that fertiliser is generally not being applied in the same quantity or frequency as previous years.

TAMS closing date

There is a month left before Tranche 26 of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) closes for applications on 1 July 2022.

Those interested in making an application should progress with their application rather than rushing as the deadline approaches. There has been no formal announcement regarding Tranche 27 of TAMS opening on 2 July but it is expected that this will be the case.

Blowfly treatment and safety

Safety precautions are well highlighted when discussing plunge dipping of sheep, but health risks when applying pour-on products are often not realised or worse, discounted.

The application process of such products can create a vapour /aerosol or mist which can be easily inhaled or come in contact with skin where an appropriate respiratory mask and protective clothing is not used.

Many of these tasks take place during the summer months with help from family members, and therefore safety precautions also apply outside of just the operator.

It is important to note that there are different mask filters for dealing with different hazardous substances, and they have a shelf life and require changing.

Tick-related issues in sheep were covered in the focus recently, but it is no harm highlighting to producers that farmers and shearers handling sheep in the last week are witnessing a sharp rise in the level of infestation in some flocks.