16 April 1999

191% lamb figure best in years

Lambing is all but over at

Kings Arms and, as

Allan Wright reports, the

emphasis for the Dalrymples

in the past two weeks has

been on getting suckled

calves ready for sale at Ayr

ROBERT and Caroline Dalrymple are never keen to quote a lambing percentage until the last ewe has given birth.

But with only a handful remaining, Robert was prepared to say that the final figure looked like being 191% of live lambs from the total number of ewes put to the tup.

It was not a record for the farm but the best result for some years and certainly the best figure since the ewe flock passed the 1000 mark. When we spoke, 834 ewes were running with pairs, 84 had triplets, and 69 singles. Four singles, 10 twins, and a set of triplets were expected. Ewe deaths were 1.4% and barren ewes 2%.

There were only three pet lambs bringing the total to 2019 from 1054 ewes put the tup. The low number of pet lambs is due to the relentless twining policy of farm manager, Andrew MacLean.

"Many farmers lift the third lamb in a set of triplets, Andrew twins it to a single. He will also bring a ewe which loses a single back in from the field and twin another one on to her. It makes a big difference to the final number of lambs reared," said Robert.

"The lambing has been a mixture of hard work, good luck, and the fact that we are getting better at the job. The staff have been superb, always prepared to go the extra hour and sharing the satisfaction as well as the work of lambing," he added.

Cleaning out all the pens shortly before lambing was done by a contractor in one day rather than the anticipated two and with minimum stress. The ewes moved around the sheep shed in front of the cleaning operation and the result was improved hygiene and working conditions during lambing.

"The other thing which has undoubtedly improved our lambing percentage is that we have a vaccination programme against both enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis. Some years ago we had the beginning of a problem and invested £7000 in vaccination. Now it costs £6 for each ewe lamb coming into the flock but it means we approach lambing without worries about abortion There is nothing more depressing than stillborn lambs and we consider the vaccine programme a sound investment," he said.

Grass not plentiful

Despite a kindly March, grass growth is not as plentiful as last year and ewes have needed feeding for an extra fortnight. It has also been decided to creep feed lambs from 350 ewes rather than the normal 280 this year to get more away in the earliest months of the lamb marketing period, which will begin at Kings Arms within the next month.

Creep feeding is being confined to Suffolk crosses which respond better than Texel crosses and male lambs will be finished entire. Another part of what has become routine husbandry is that every ewe is wormed and has her feet pared before turnout.

"It saves treatment later on and the worming at turnout reduces the challenge faced by the lambs." Tups, which have been in-wintered for the first time, will also be treated before being turned out. "Housing them has given us an extra field of spring grass as a bonus," said Robert.

As well as an extra 10t of sheep feed, the Dalrymples have had to buy extra straw this year. A load was used in the preparation of suckled calves which were being sold in Ayr market yesterday (Thursday). All the calves are clipped and cleaned up before the sale. "It is a lot of work but leaves us proud of our stock on the day," said Robert.

All 122 sale calves were on straw for at least a fortnight before the sale. Some over-wintered on straw but arrived for the pre-sale treatment dirtier than those which wintered on slats. "Each one takes five to 10 minutes to clip and clean up although the occasional difficult one can take nearly and hour. We can never be sure if it adds value in the sale ring but it leaves us sure than we have presented our stock in the best possible condition," said Robert.

Calving is proceeding well. There are more bulls for a change and this after a run of 11 heifers to start the season.

This is the final feature in the two-year series from Kings Arms. Robert and Caroline say they have enjoyed the experience and the comments the articles have created. Robert has taken some pleasure from dodging the most searching questions about the farm business and we still do not know whether he has bought a new teleporter. &#42