1 March 2002

Delayed lambing a cause for vigilance

By Hannah Velten

SCANNING results for March/ April lambers seem reasonably good, but lambing may be protracted because of foot-and-mouth movement restrictions and older ewes need to be watched closely, say sheep consultants.

Across the country, scanning results are either at normal levels or an estimated 5-15% lower than previous years.

ADAS consultant Kate Philips, who is based in Shropshire, hasnt seen any exceptional lambing percentages, which is unusual, she says.

"Limited animal movements, poor flushing grazing on over-stocked units and no grass keep options caused by F&M can explain the lack of outstanding flock results."

Fellow ADAS consultant Tom Lewis, from Northum-berland, estimates 10-15% lower lambing percentages, but praises good stockmanship throughout movement restrictions. "It is a wonder most producers maintained ewe condition under incredibly tight conditions."

Independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings says scanning results are similar to normal, but lambing is likely to be delayed or protracted on many units. "This will cause irritation to producers and could increase additional labour costs at lambing."

There will be more older ewes lambing this season because replacements couldnt be bought in. They will need extra care and attention, advises Ms Philips.

The body condition of older March/April lambing ewes is likely to start slipping soon, adds Ms Stubbings. "Watch them closely because they are likely to have higher numbers of lambs. When possible, keep them in a separate group and ensure they have plenty of feed.

"Those with poor teeth should be provided with molasses in a ball feeder to maintain energy levels and prevent twin lamb disease."

Producers expecting a larger crop of lambs than usual, particularly those with older ewes, should search for additional lambing labour early, advises ADAS senior consultant David Morris. "Apart from lambing assistance, fostering and getting smaller lambs suckling requires time and effort."

Ewes with multiple lambs need good grass at turnout, so he advises getting on the first application of N fertiliser – about 60-70kg/ha (50-60 units/acre) as soon as ground conditions allow.

But ewes scanned empty must be culled as soon as possible, advises independent business consultant Peter Crichton. "Cull these ewes during the retention period when there is a reservoir of surplus ewe lambs on-farm to match quota.

"A strong cull ewe will fetch £40-45 on the cull market during the retention period because many producers are hanging on to female sheep," he says. &#42

Watch older ewes scanned with multiple lambs (below) carefully to avoid twin lamb disease, advises Kate Philips.

&#8226 Lower crops due to F&M.

&#8226 Take care of older ewes.

&#8226 Sell empty ewes soon.