Pressure on housing: The torrential rainfall at the start of the week and challenging ground conditions have put pressure back on lambing facilities for those in the thick of the action.

The pressure has likely meant that for some there has not been the same opportunity to get lambing pens cleaned as fast as desired.

With an upturn in weather forecast it is important to take the earliest opportunity which presents itself to address any hygiene issues.

Cleaning and disinfecting individual lambing pens either through the application of lime or a disinfectant will help reduce the build-up of bacteria and minimise the risk of diseases such as watery mouth or navel/joint ill from getting established.

While straw is expensive, skimping on its use is a false economy and such a scenario is likely to end up mounting to the same cost or an even greater one if disease is allowed to establish.

Supplementing at grass: A ewe suckling two lambs in normal grazing conditions will have the ability to consume enough grass where the sward height is between 4cm and 6cm. The issue that arises here is that if grass utilisation or dry matter is limited in any way, which is likely to be the case after recent torrential rainfall, then her energy intake may be compromised and running at a deficit.

In such cases targeted supplementation can be used to increase the overall energy content of the diet and this will also have a positive influence on slowing grass digestion. It can also be used where weather has prevented fertiliser application and grass supplies look like they will come under pressure to extend the grazing rotation until growth rate recovers.

The level of supplementation will depend on the farm circumstances.

Where utilisation is relatively good in general, 0.5kg to 0.6kg will help fill a nutritional deficit, rising to 0.7kg to 0.8kg if ewes are in poor body condition. Where a grass deficit is on the horizon or where utilisation is particularly poor then supplementation rates should be increased to 1kg to 1.2kg for twin suckling ewes and 0.5kg to 0.6kg for single suckling ewes, with thin ewes again receiving 0.2kg to 0.3kg more.

Genotyping high-value animals: A report from last week’s Teagasc hill sheep conference discussed the huge scope that is present in the hill sheep sector to implement a breeding programme and drive genetic gain. The opportunities discussed are every bit as applicable to the lowland sector, where the uptake has been positive. A constraint for farmers in rolling out genotyping across large numbers is its cost. Sheep Ireland is subsidising the cost for LambPlus members which reduces the cost from €24.50/animal to €15/animal.

Kevin McDermott hopes that the cost of genotyping will continue to fall and make it more feasible to genotype higher numbers. Even at a significant cost of €15/head there is a payback on the information delivered. Kevin’s advice for flocks considering genotyping is to look at the animals where the greatest benefit will be returned from genotyping such as rams going to a sale or high-value animals that have a significant influence on the flock’s breeding programme. From 2021 all genotypes animals will also receive a genomic inbreeding result.