Lamb performance and drafting

Reports on lamb slaughter performance continue to be hugely variable, with a few factories reporting that they are still handling a significant number of lamb carcases which are killing out as low as 15kg to 16kg carcase weight and lacking in flesh cover.

These lambs are considerably harder to market and create a surplus of out-of-spec product. From a producer perspective, they fail to capitalise on the potential increase in value from marketing lambs at the correct weight and fat cover, with underweight lambs in many cases heavily penalised.

The upturn in weather this week should help to improve lamb performance but the recent pressure on price means there is a continued risk of light lambs coming on stream from farmers fearful of the trade and anxious to move quicker.

Where there is an appetite to move lighter lambs that will fail to deliver a carcase weight in excess of 17kg, then the mart is the best outlet for these lambs, with farmer customers present for short-keep lambs.

If slaughter performance improves as expected over the coming weeks, then it is also important to weigh and draft lambs regularly to keep them moving in a manner that takes best advantage of farmgate returns and avoids them going overweight.

Improved grass growth

Grass growth rates have increased significantly over the last week. Farmers have recorded growth rates in excess of 80kg to 100kg DM/ha/day on young swards which are growing on well-fertilised soils at optimum fertility. Quick action will be required in such cases to maintain the number of days grazing ahead at the target of 10.

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 sward height of 8cm to 10cm and exit at a post-grazing sward height of 4cm to 4.5cm.

Ewes on their back

The increase in temperatures and humid weather experienced since the weekend has significantly increased reports of blowfly strike in ewes and hoggets in particular. There has also been a spike in the reported incidence of ewes going on their back, with dry hoggets, early lambing ewes and fat ewes the worst offenders.

Shearing is the ultimate solution to preventing ewes with a full fleece going on their back but with the start of the shearing season delayed and everyone now looking for their contractor to shear, it may not be as straightforward as that. Some farms find they get some reprieve by placing an item of equipment in a field for ewes to scratch off.

Items such as a trailer, roller, transport box etc are all options which can help. It is often the case where you can get repeat offenders and these should be removed from the flock so they can be supervised closely until shearing takes place.

Advice on applying pour-on products has been touched on regularly in recent weeks but it is worth highlighting the importance of following manufacturers’ guidelines as there are significant differences in the mode of action of products which influences application techniques. Notice should also be taken of withdrawal dates in lambs approaching slaughter weight as these vary from seven to 40 days.