Weather challenges

It is a case of Murphy ’s Law with regard to this week’s sheep page. Obviously the torrential rainfall will limit opportunities to get fertiliser applied, but it doesn’t mean that no progress can be made in this area.

Reports from co-ops/merchants point to low levels of fertiliser sales among sheep and suckler farmers in particular.

Some work in the area of calculating the type and volume of fertiliser required, along with price analysis and having fertiliser in the yard when opportunities do arise to apply it will pay dividends, particularly during a busy lambing season.

Torrential rainfall is hitting at the worst possible time for farmers entering or in the midst of peak lambing. The weather forecast for the next week is changing by the day and varying from low to high levels of rain.

The greatest challenge for those lambing is keeping ewes and lambs moving out to grass and reducing pressure on lambing pens.

While not ideal, the focus will need to be on turning out ewes and lambs which look best suited to dealing with the harsh weather.

It is not just lamb age that should be considered, mothering ability should also be taken in to account. Where weather allows, it is preferable to release ewes and lambs to grass early in the day to allow the maximum timeframe to acclimatise before nightfall.

Ground conditions are tricky, with water lying in some fields. Target fields with the best balance of providing shelter and a dry lie. Placing a meal trough in such areas can help ewes settle initially, while keeping group size to small numbers will help to avoid mismothering.

Indoor management will need to prioritise hygiene. Straw supplies are tight, but failing to apply sufficient quantities will only escalate challenges by providing a more favourable environment for disease to establish and spread.

Some farmers are using bedding such as mischantus in individual lambing pens to conserve straw supplies. It is an expensive option, but hygiene cannot be compromised.

Applying lime to group pens and cleaning pens/disinfecting between sheep will help keep a lid on the build-up of bacteria. It is also important to recognise that during a busy period failing to clean equipment, clothing etc can act as a reservoir of disease.

Items such as stomach tubes, bottles etc need to be washed in warm soapy water and disinfected.

Colostrum is also critical. If at all possible, each lamb should receive colostrum from their mother or another ewe on the farm, with colostrum supplements used as a supplement and not as a substitute.

Marketing hoggets

It is clear from enquiries that there will be significant numbers of ewe hoggets drafted for sale in the coming weeks. Many producers are seeking information on demand forecasts.

The start of Ramadan has delivered a significant boost in demand. There will be another boost leading in to Easter, with Easter Sunday falling on 31 March.

This will be followed in quick succession by the ending of Ramadan on 9 April.

Liming extension

It is welcome to see that the deadline to apply lime purchased under the National Liming Programme is being extended from 31 March 2024 to 28 June 2024.