Mineral supplementation

Mineral supplementation of ewes post-mating has proven popular in the Sheep Improvement Scheme and is the main Category A lowland and hill option selected. The specifications require that minerals administered provide cover for at least the first 60 days from the date of ram turnout.

Where more than one mating date is in place, records should take account of this and minerals administered accordingly. There is no issue in supplementing minerals in advance of mating. The main focus is to ensure that whatever mode or modes of supplementation chosen provide adequate cover.

For example, boluses with a long period of cover can be administered well in advance of mating, or a mineral drench could provide cover for the first 40 days post-mating and mineral lick buckets thereafter.

It is important to ensure that no break in supplementation occurs. Supplementation may take the form of bagged mineral feed stuffs (dry minerals), mineral blocks, drenches and liquid minerals, injectables, boluses or feeds with an appropriate mineral content.

With lick buckets, the required number of lick buckets based on the recommended daily feeding guidelines must be purchased – irrespective of whether or not ewes are consuming them.

Take note also that the label of the product used must clearly state the product is suitable for ewes. It must also specify a duration of cover for ewes and the dose rate.

Ensure that the information on the invoice relating to the purchase of minerals reflects the date recorded in the scheme action booklet.

Farmers must record the date on which supplementation commenced, the number of ewes in the group, the method of supplementation used, the product name and rate of administration.

Take care when administering boluses as there have been some reported cases of mortality due to damage incurred to the throat of sheep in the administration process.

Action deadlines

The 30 September deadline for completion of other actions selected in the Sheep Improvement Scheme is also fast approaching.

Under parasite control, lowland flocks must submit two faecal egg counts between 1 June and 30 September, while hill flocks must carry out one faecal egg count within four weeks of weaning. These tasks are for lambs only and not ewes.

The laboratories where faecal egg counts are sent must be included on the Department of Agriculture’s approved list, which can be found at www.gov.ie-sheepimprovementscheme.

Sheep scab resistance

This week’s sustainability page addresses the control of external parasites and dipping management. The incidence of sheep scab is reportedly growing. There are also concerns regarding treatment programmes increasing the risk of sheep scab resistance to chemical control options.

There have been confirmed cases of resistance to injectables in the UK, while the use of broad spectrum injectable products also greatly increases the risk of anthelmintic resistance, limiting worm control options.

Injectable products should only be used where dipping is not an option, such as a quarantine treatment where purchasing individual, small numbers of animals or where there is no other feasible option.

Where this option is being selected, then it is vital that manufacturer’s guidelines with regard to dosage rates and re-treatment requirements are adhered to. There is also potential for sheep scab resistance to develop to chemicals used, and as such it is important to adhere to the advice detailed by Martin Merrick in this week's paper.