Marketing lambs

This week’s sheep feature discusses store lamb finishing budgets. While many will view it as guidance for producers considering purchasing store lambs, it is also a useful guide to weigh up if selling lambs as stores is a better option than retaining through to finish.

This is especially important in light of lamb performance for many producers being below par and grass supplies curtailed by the recent high temperatures. As such it is wise to review if lamb finishing plans are still on target.

Teagasc targets for a mid-season flock lambing from the start to middle of March are to have at least 45% of lambs drafted for sale by mid-August.

This figure includes ewe lambs identified for retaining as replacements and rises to 70% by mid-September.

Where lambs are on target and supplies of good-quality grass are sufficient then plans can progress as normal.

However, if lamb weight and condition is running behind target and this is likely to result in inadequate grass supplies then changes will be needed quickly to get back on track.

This can include reducing demand by considering the store lamb/cull ewe trade, introducing supplementary feeding to enhance performance and applying fertiliser to underpin improved grass supplies.

Where feeding concentrates, batch lambs on weight for the best response.

Winter straw requirements

Now is a good time to review existing supplies and organise this winter’s requirement. Lowland ewes will require 7kg straw bedding per week to absorb all urine, while hill ewes have a lower requirement of 4kg to 5kg.

As a rule of thumb one 4x4 round bale weighing 140kg will be sufficient to bed 18 to 20 lowland ewes per week or 30 to 35 hill ewes.

This requirement is generally for ewes fed silage and the requirement may be reduced by 20% to 30% for ewes fed hay or high dry matter haylage.

Applying straw with a straw blower will also reduce the level of usage.

In the region of four to five bales for every 100 ewes will be required for lambing pens where ewes are turned outdoors within 24 to 36 hours. It is no harm building in a reserve if finances allow, in case inclement weather delays turnout.

Round 4 x 4 bales typically weigh 150kg on average but can weigh 140kg to 180kg, 8 x 4 x 3 bales weigh about 360kg (range 350kg to 380kg) while 8 x 4 x 4 bales vary more and can weigh just below 500kg to 600kg with an average weight of 550kg.

Ram sale

The Sheep Ireland ram sale takes place in Tullamore Mart on Saturday 27 August at 11.30am. The sale is the largest catalogued ram sale, with 450 genetically elite rams entered.

All animals are ranked in the top 20% (five star) of their breed on the replacement or terminal index.

Rams on offer are also DNA sire verified and Sheep Ireland expects that 60% of rams entered will also be dam DNA verified.

For sale in ring 1 are Belclare, Lleyn, Border Leicester, Rough de l’Ouest, Vendéen and Charollais. In ring 2 are Suffolk, Hampshire Down and Texel.

The provisional catalogue will be available on the Sheep Ireland website on 18 August and the final catalogue will be available on Tuesday 23 August.