Worm burdens

Many flocks are approaching the time of year where worm burdens on pasture are reaching peak levels. This week’s rainfall following the recent fine spell could intensify the hatching of eggs in many regions and as such it is important to keep worm control on your radar.

Reports from vets and several farmers show some sharp spikes in worm counts in faecal egg tests.

It is worthwhile carrying out a faecal egg count regularly at this time of year, with now also a good time to complete a faecal egg count reduction test where there is any doubt regarding the efficacy of active ingredients.

Judging worm counts by dirty tail ends has been shown by research to be unreliable, with the cleanest lambs in a flock often possessing the highest worm burden.

Thought should be given to product choice. Mistakes are often made in selecting different brand name products but not actually changing the active ingredient used.

Hill ram sales

On page 50 the genotyped ram action as part of the Sheep Improvement Scheme is discussed. There is some confusion regarding the sourcing of eligible hill rams. Sheep can be purchased through society sales, but they can also be purchased in general mart sales or direct from the farm.

The same options apply to hill sheep farmers as lowland farmers with regard to deferring the purchase of a genotyped ram if you are facing challenges sourcing one or bringing the year of purchase forward.

If you are opting for either of these, then you must notify the Department of Agriculture before the end of year one (31 December).

Where you are deferring purchasing the ram until 2024 or 2025, then you must complete your originally selected category B option.

If your original Category B action is not an option for you, you can request to switch to an alternative available Category B action for 2023 only. This change will not affect your payment in any way.

If you have forgotten the year you opted to select the genotyped ram action or the actions selected, then this information can be viewed on your agfood.ie account under the Sheep Improvement Scheme heading.

Hill breeding strategies

while on the subject of hill breeding, the potential for a flock to increase the value of progeny through crossbreeding will be determined by the level of output.

For example a flock rearing 0.8 lambs per ewe joined to ram only has the potential for about 35% crossbreeding if they are to generate enough flock replacements. In contrast, a flock rearing one lamb per ewe could implement crossbreeding on 47% of ewes, increasing to 52% at 1.1 lambs reared per ewe joined.

The better option for some flocks may be focusing entirely on pure breeding, where land type does not suit crossbreeding or where the flock can develop a good market for selling suitable replacements.

The level of output in a hill flock can be directly influenced by ewe body condition and liveweight and now is also the time to address this.

Teagasc research has shown a very strong association between the liveweight of Scottish Blackface ewes at mating and subsequent litter size (increasing from BCS 2 to 3 lifted the lambing percentage by 13.5%). Having ewes in optimum condition will also condense the lambing spread.