Grading replacements: The recent lift in factory lamb prices has greatly enhanced the attractiveness of marketing ewe lambs. This is especially true for farmers who purchased ewe lambs with the intention of carrying over to breeding sales next autumn, or potentially selling this spring depending on the trade.

For farmers who have invested in maintaining a closed flock and retaining their own replacements, then the benefits of this far outweigh selling lambs now, with a view to possibly purchasing replacements later in the season.

Market signals from factory agents point to a stronger demand for sheep delivering carcases within the desired weight range of 20kg to 23kg. This should be kept in mind when planning drafting dates.

The other consideration that should be kept in mind for farmers unsure as to whether or not they will sell a percentage of ewe lambs this spring is to take advantage of ewe lambs that still possess a good cover of flesh and maintain this by offering even a small level of concentrate supplementation, or segregating lambs that might be sold for preferential treatment.

It will be much easier and less expensive to do this now, rather than let lambs lose condition and then try and regain this down the line to prepare sheep for sales.

Clostridial disease vaccination: Many flocks lambing in late January and February will now be approaching their window for administering a clostridial disease vaccine. Note that many products advise administering the vaccine four to six weeks pre-lambing, while a couple of products have a wider window for administering two to eight weeks pre-lambing.

As such, it is important to check the guidelines for the product you are using, to ensure optimum production of maternally derived antibodies in colostrum.

Where there is a significant spread in lambing, it is recommended to split the treatment date, if feasible. Remember, if sheep have not previously received a primary course of two treatments. or it is longer than 12 months since the last treatment. then a primary course will be required to stimulate optimum immunity.

Sheep welfare retention number: There have been a few queries of late from farmers who possessed cull ewes until the census date for the Sheep Welfare Scheme and now want to trade them without reducing their head count for the scheme. The 2020-born ewe lambs will suffice to contribute to the retention figure from 1 January 2021, providing scope for farmers to trade cull or barren ewes.

Census reminder: Farmers should complete their sheep census (head count of 31 December) returns as soon as possible. To complete the census online, log on to your agfood account and select the tab ‘animal identification and movement’.

Farms with mixed cattle and sheep enterprises will be then given a cattle-keeper option and a sheep-keeper option. Select the sheep option and then in the top left section, click on ‘census’ and ‘create’ to bring up the 2020 input sheet.