Early lactation feeding

In normal weather conditions and reasonably good levels of grass utilisation, a plentiful supply of grass at a height of 4cm to 5cm upwards is more than capable of meeting the surge in energy and protein requirements of single and twin-suckling ewes in early lactation.

Where ewes are in poor body condition or grass utilisation, quality or supply are under pressure, then ewes will benefit from short-term concentrate supplementation.

A feeding rate of 0.3kg to 0.6kg will typically suffice for twin-suckling ewes, with 0.3kg sufficient for single-suckling ewes.

Where grass supplies are scarce (less than 3.5cm) or if grass utilisation is particularly challenging, such as in adverse weather conditions, then supplementation rates will need to be increased to meet nutritional demands and help conserve supplies.

The general recommendation in such a scenario is feeding rates of 0.7kg to 1kg for twin-suckling ewes in good body condition, rising to 1kg to 1.2kg for ewes lacking condition.

An allocation of 0.3kg to 0.5kg will typically suffice for single-suckling ewes in good condition, and 0.5kg to 0.7kg for ewes lacking condition.

Where ewes and lambs are being retained indoors short-term, then feeding rates will not need to be drastically increased from pre-lambing.

However, where ewes and lambs are being retained indoors for a significant period of time, then feeding rates will need to increase substantially.

Twin-suckling ewes in good body condition and offered ad-lib access to moderate quality silage (68-70+DMD) will require 1.2kg to 1.5kg concentrate supplementation daily. Supplementation levels should be increased to 1.5kg to 1.7kg where forage quality is very poor or ewes are very short of flesh.

Single-suckling ewes in good body condition will require 0.6kg to 0.8kg concentrates, with this again rising to 1kg or higher where forage quality is poor, or for ewes lacking condition. Feeding levels should be gradually increased, with sharp increases in the immediate period post-lambing avoided.

Where ewes are on such high levels of feed, straw usage will also need to be increased significantly to maintain high levels of hygiene and limit the chance of a build-up of bacteria and disease establishing.

Marketing avenues

There is a significant difference between opening prices quoted by factory agents and prices paid to those trading at the top of the market/live sales in marts.

Prices have jumped sharply in the space of just a few days in recent weeks, highlighting the importance of producers staying informed of the trade to ensure they are receiving maximum returns.

This rings true for both hoggets and cull ewes, with the price variation for cull ewes particularly wide in some areas. Demand for ewes is being helped by tighter supplies of hoggets, and provides an opportunity to cash in on problem animals.

Suitability for slaughter

There are always queries at this stage of the year regarding the suitability of sheep for slaughter. Where animals are deemed unfit for transport, they are also deemed unsuitable for slaughter.

Animals must be able to walk unassisted and remain standing during transport.

Animals should never be presented for slaughter with an open wound, profuse bleeding, or where there is a risk that prolapsed organs will be easily damaged during transport.

It is also prohibited to present pregnant females for slaughter that are 90% or more through their expected gestation.