Slaughter performance variability: There are hugely varying reports from farmers regarding the slaughter performance of lambs and in particular kill-out. The greatest issues appear to be in areas of the country worst affected by a late spring, inclement weather, poor grass growth and where lambs have been finished on a restricted rather than ad-lib concentrate diet.

In the worst-affected cases lambs are killing as low as 42% to 44%, which is far from the norm for early lambing flocks, while other flocks are finding kill-out possibly running 1% to 2% lower than the norm. The worst kill-out is reported in lambs which are light on flesh cover, which is not surprising.

There are few immediate solutions to these issues, especially if lambs are aged and performance has stagnated. Care should be taken when drafting and the level of supplementation being offered should be reassessed for lambs approaching slaughter weight. Current weather is also a big barrier to thrive and mid-season flocks lambing in March are hoping for a significant turnaround in the coming weeks for lambs being finished off grass.

In contrast, young lambs which have not been under any real pressure and have been finished on a high concentrate diet are killing out in the region of 47% to 49% with the odd well-conformed or muscled lambs hitting 50% kill-out. If in doubt of the kill-out, it may be worth drafting a test batch of lambs to gauge slaughter performance before moving significant numbers.

Blowfly strike and shearing: There have been a few more reports of incidences of blowfly strike in the last week. In the cases reported the strikes were minor which is not surprising given current weather. Nevertheless, it is important to be vigilant and note that the increase is likely to build in the coming week so take appropriate preventative action.

Shearers report that in general ewes suckling lambs are just about fit to be shorn, with ewes suckling young lambs still typically unsuitable. Caution should be taken where shearing in current weather to ensure sheep have access to shelter post-shearing, with cases of pneumonia still prevalent.

Dispatch dockets: Last week’s feature on sheep identification and the recording of movement documentation raised a few follow-on questions. Some questions concerned the recording of tag numbers of sheep traded through a premises licensed as a central point of recording (CPR) and as such recording tag numbers. In such instances there is no requirement to record individual tag numbers on the dispatch document. A print out of the tag numbers provided by the CPR can be affixed to the producer copy of the dispatch document or retained on file. An important point to check is that the number of sheep recorded on the dispatch document corresponds with the number of tag numbers provided.

Date for diary: Teagasc is hosting a virtual farm walk on Thursday 3 June at 8pm on the farm of Shane Moore who is a participant of their BETTER farm sheep programme. The event will cover farm infrastructure required for efficient expansion of flock numbers, grassland management and lamb performance. Register at