Sheep welfare Scheme: The main details of the new Sheep Welfare Scheme are listed overleaf (for readers in Ireland). There are still a few details cropping up regarding the scheme, including whether yearling ewe hoggets can be used to contribute to the payable number. One would expect they can, similar to the Sheep Improvement Scheme, as long as the numbers of sheep are present to satisfy scheme action requirements. Other questions include whether farmers can carry out plunge-dipping in neighbouring facilities, while a common question also cropping up is if farmers converting or in full organic sheep production can dip. Farmers participating in organics can carry out sheep dipping using a non-organophosphate product, but again we will get the full advice from organic bodies and endeavour to answer these questions in next week’s edition. If there are any questions we can help with, you can email or WhatsApp/text 086-836-6465. The contact details for questions to the Department of Agriculture sheep section are, or call 057-867-4422.

Weather management: There are hopefully better prospects on the horizon weather-wise, with the long-term forecast pointing towards high pressure from 17 April. This week has been challenging again, particularly for flocks lambing outdoors, with many stories of significant mortality following torrential rainfall. There is no quick fix to the current challenges. While not straightforward, striving to satisfy the nutritional demands of lactating ewes will hopefully deliver dividends in underpinning lamb performance and keeping problems at bay. For most, this includes supplementing ewes in the first few weeks of lactation to conserve existing grass supplies. Supplementation rates vary from 0.5kg to 1kg, depending on grass supplies, rising to upwards of 1.5kg where grass supplies are depleted and ewes are increasing in milk yield. Even if conditions improve, feeding programmes will likely need to be continued until grass supplies get back to normal. Moves will also need to be made to get a grazing programme back on track by batching sheep into bigger groups, but for now feeding may be easier facilitated in smaller batches. Every system is different and so very prescriptive advice is not easy. With regard t0 boosting grass supplies, advancing decisions on purchasing fertiliser is wise. Merchants report very low sales volumes to date and it is possible as such that there may be a rush to get supplies once weather picks up. Having fertiliser in the yard will avoid any delivery delays and make completion of tasks easier.

Yearling hoggets: Reports indicate that yearling hoggets rearing twin lambs are finding it particularly challenging to cope with current weather and low dry matter levels in grass. Such hoggets should be supplemented for at least the first five weeks of lactation. Supplementation is similar to triplet-suckling ewes and, again, can vary from 0.5kg on good grass supplies to upwards of 1kg where grass supplies are scarce or utilisation is poor. Management of hoggets rearing single lambs will depend on condition and age, but where any doubt exists, the supplementation will deliver a return on investment. Remember also that as the season progresses, yearling hoggets rearing lambs should be considered for worm control, ideally on the basis of faecal egg count analysis, with these animals taking longer to develop natural immunity.